Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stem Cell Lab Program Nixed in California

Directors of the California stem cell agency today eliminated future funding for a $72 million "shared" labs program that supporters said was a key to successful stem cell research in the Golden State.

The action came on a 4-0 vote with two abstentions following a presentation by 20 stem cell scientists that the labs were vital to research and needed for the training of scientists. Jeanne Loring, head of the Scripps stem cell program, told the board today that the labs have evolved to become the place "where all of the research for CIRM takes place." She later said in an email that each lab is currently receiving only $200,000 a year.

The agency's Scientific Advisory Board recommended no further funding of the labs, saying their original justification was no longer "compelling." CIRM staff agreed, saying alternatives to shared labs were available.

CIRM President Alan Trounson said the agency had a finite number of dollars and "sometimes we have to cut off some these things." He said that the labs are "probably not as important as some other things" and that the labs are a "luxury."

The labs have another six to 12 months of remaining funding. Steve Juelsgaard, a CIRM board member, said the labs should have been planning for a loss of funding from the agency.

Only seven of the 29 members of the agency governing board could participate in the discussion or vote because of conflicts of interest. One of the seven was absent from the meeting. The other members of the board are tied to institutions that operate shared labs.

The program was begun in 2007 and has been funded to the tune of $72 million since then. Loring later said in an email to the California Stem Cell Report,
"You should mention that each of the shared labs was getting $200,000 a year…that's it. That's what they decided to cut.  We have leveraged that money 10-fold from NIH, but NIH will not support cores directly."
(Loring's comments in her email were added following publication of the original version of this story.) Sphere: Related Content

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