Friday, June 13, 2014

California Stem Cell Directors Okay Tight, $17 Million Budget

Directors of the California stem cell agency today approved a $17.3 million, hold-the-line budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, cutting $573,000 from a spending plan that was proposed in early May.

The vote was 17-0 during a special teleconference meeting that also saw a proposed $900,424 grant sent back for a special examination by the agency's reviewers, said a CIRM spokesman via email.

Presentation slides prepared for the meeting indicated that the new president of the $3 billion agency, Randy Mills, is still evaluating the agency. The documents said,
“If significant changes to the structure are needed, a proposal to the board along with the associated budgetary implications will be made at that time.”

Directors were also told that without a $250,000, legally required performance audit this coming year, the operational budget would be $400,000 under the estimated current spending of $17.4 million.

The spending plan reflects initial parsimony on the part of Mills, who made a career in business prior to coming to the agency. The previous CIRM CEOs have all come from academia.

In other business, Kevin McCormack, senior director for public communications, said that the $900,424 proposed award to Helen Blau of Stanford was sent back for re-review by a subset of the agency's grant review group, also on a 17-0 vote. At the agency's board meeting May 29, some directors said the initial review was flawed and voted for a re-review by the full review group. However, re-reviews usually are undertaken by a smaller panel.

The action on Blau award came as one high-level CIRM staffer, Natalie DeWitt, began work this week at Blau's Stanford lab. Both DeWitt and the agency told the California Stem Cell Report that she had no role in the review of the Blau application.

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