Thursday, September 08, 2005

Dressing Up The Dog

Leaders of the California stem cell agency are attempting to put the “best face” on their decision to award $45 million in training grants without the money to pay for them, The Sacramento Bee reported today.

Reporter Laura Mecoy quoted CIRM interim president Zach Hall as saying, “We are going to come out of (tomorrow's) meeting and say we have a fabulous training program here, and that we are going to provide a work force for the country. We're going to play that up."

She also wrote, “The committee's chairman, Robert Klein II, said the agency needs to show it's creating the 'finest training program in the history of the country' to help attract money to pay for the grants.

“With that attention, he said, he's "very positive" he'll be able to raise the money to pay for the first year of the three-year grants.

“Klein won't name the potential investors and contributors. But he said he could have the money in hand as early as October.”

The agency's plan to move ahead with the grant process has met with criticism and is expected to meet with more.

Mecoy said one critic recommended delaying the grant awards so it can work on other matters.

"What purpose is served by announcing winners before you have the money?" asked Jesse Reynolds, Center for Genetics and Society program director. "I can't think of anything beyond public relations."

Mecoy also talked to Susan Fogel, Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research coordinator, who said the “committee is creating 'a mistaken impression' that science is moving forward by awarding grants without money to fund them.

“She said she was 'disappointed' by the stem cell panel's 'focus on spin and public relations that doesn't have anything to do with the science.'"

Mecoy additionally reported that UC Davis officials confirmed their application was among the finalists. She said, however, that the recommended funding supported 12 trainees, rather than the 16 requested, and provided $2.68 million instead of the $3.43 million UC Davis sought.

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