Wednesday, March 09, 2016

California Stem Cell Researchers Expect $44 Million in Awards from the State Next Week

California's stem cell research agency next week is expected to hand out more than $44 million for attempts to find therapies for everything from cancer to diabetes.

Scheduled to be approved at the $3 billion agency's board meeting next Wednesday are nine applications, most of which are termed translational, meaning that they are attempting to move from basic research to a level where they might be suitable for clinical trials.

Two of the awards are more advanced, and are discussed in an item on the California Stem Cell Report yesterday. They total $7.4 million. Seven translational awards are up for action, totalling $36.8 million. All were approved earlier behind closed doors by the agency's reviewers.

An eighth application for $2.9 million to study a 2nd generation vaccine for the treatment of glioblastoma was also approved by reviewers. However, an agency document said board action is being deferred "to review material new information."  Asked whether questions had been raised "about the nature of the action by the grant review group," Kevin McCormack, senior director of communications, replied, 
"No, this has to do with information that has come to us that might affect the recommendation" of the review group.
Twenty-two applications seeking a total of $59 million were rejected.

None of the applicants was identified by the agency, which withholds that information until the board acts.

However, the agency posted more detail about the review process, scoring and voting than it has in the past. The review summaries and the additional material consumed 85 pages for all of the applications, including those rejected.

The review also marked the first use of new procedures that cut off awards on applications that received a scientific score of less than 85. In the past, awards were made for some applications that ranked in the 60s, including this one that was scored at 61.

In the past, some of the researchers whose applications have been rejected have appeared before the board to request that reviewer decisions be overturned. It was not clear whether that would occur under the new procedures.

Formal appeals are limited to demonstrable conflicts of interest and are pursued in private,  under the agency's rules. However, applicants are not told the names of persons who review their applications, making it difficult to determine whether conflicts exist. Sphere: Related Content

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