Friday, October 25, 2019

California Stem Cell Agency Posts $54 Million in Good News for Eight Researchers

Eight California researchers may be able to breathe a sigh of relief this morning with the news that the California stem cell agency has enough cash on hand to fund their applications to develop therapies for afflictions ranging from Parkinson's to eye diseases.

All eight of the applications have been approved already by the agency's reviewers. The agency's  governing board very rarely reverses the reviewers' actions. 

Until a day ago, it was uncertain whether the agency had the money to fund all the proposals. The good news for the scientists came in the form of a posting late yesterday on the web site of the agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The posting said that the agency has $54.2 million available for new awards as of Wednesday of this week (Oct. 23). The total for the eight application is about $52 million. 

Of course, it is possible that the board could move in a different direction based on considerations not readily apparent from the agenda for its meeting next Thursday. 

If the agency has $2 million or so left after next week's meeting, it is also unclear what it will do with the cash. One possibility is that it could retain the cash for awhile and combine it with funds that might be recovered from awards that have not met milestones.  So far this year, the agency has recovered $30.3 million.

CIRM has expected to run out of cash this year for new awards after dispensing $2.7 billion over the last 15 years to 1,017 recipients. It is hoping voters will approve $5.5 billion more via a ballot initiative in November 2020. 

Thursday's meeting does have another financial fillip. Listed on the agenda is a line that says a report will be made on private donations. That could be good news or not-so-good news depending on how successful its private funding efforts have been over the last couple of years. Results of that drive are yet to be publicly announced. 

(Editor's note for careful readers: The CIRM document that contains the $54.2 million figure also lists $57.2 million in applications. One of those applications, a $5 million proposal, was not approved by reviewers, however.) 

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