Thursday, May 21, 2020

"Emergency" Meeting Tomorrow Morning; California Stem Cell Agency Wants to Expand Scope of its Covid Awards

With only 24 hours notice, California's $3 billion stem cell agency today called a meeting for tomorrow to significantly expand the scope of its Covid-19 round to include vaccine development and to permit "supplemental funding."

If the changes are approved tomorrow, scientists could file their applications up until next Tuesday to be considered in the next application review session, probably within 10 days to two weeks.  They would have an opportunity to submit another application about two weeks later if all the Covid funds have not been awarded.

Agency directors allotted $5 million for the Covid round. They have awarded about $2 million.

• "Increase scope of early stage opportunities (DISC and TRAN) to include vaccine development studies as a potential vital research opportunity.
 • "Include opportunity for studies on novel ideas and biological mechanisms by opening the DISC1 program announcement.
 • "Allow supplemental funding for active COVID-19 clinical trial awards to expand their efforts.
 • "Include requirement for outreach to underserved populations in all clinical trial proposals 
• "Increase award limit on DISC2 projects and adjust language on 6-month deliverables."

The DISC term generally refers to basic research. The TRAN term refers to translational research.

Normally the agency would not fund vaccine research because it does not involve stem cells. Under the proposal for tomorrow, it would be officially deemed a "vital research opportunity," a loophole in state stem research cell law that allows such funding.  The agency has already invoked the provision in a handful of other instances. 

The supplemental funding change would permit researchers who have already received funding under the Covid-19 round to ask the agency for more cash for their applications. The change would allocate up to $1 million for such awards. 

Under normal conditions the agency's governing board could not meet legally with only 24 hours public notice. The normal legal requirement is 10 days. However, the board is invoking emergency provisions to lift the 10-day notice. 

The 11 a.m. meeting will be available for public participation by the public via phone connections and the Internet. Details are on the agenda.

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