Wednesday, August 02, 2006

CIRM Approves $150 Million Grant Program

Feeding off the $150 million promised by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California stem cell agency today authorized an ambitious program of grants aimed at "turning stem cells into cures."

The grants will back innovative ideas as well as funding laboratory facilities and equipment.

Stem Cell Chairman Robert Klein said the four-year program will "address the critical funding gap created by the paralysis of federal policy." CIRM President Zach Hall said, "We can now advance the goal set by California voters—funding the best science that leads toward therapies."

The agency issued a press release that said the program approved today will cover the following areas:
"Comprehensive Research Grants—four-year grants to investigators with a record of accomplishment in human embryonic stem cell research or closely-related field that relate to a long-term therapeutic goal;

"Seed Grants—two-year grants to fund innovative ideas by scientific investigators who are new to the field;

"CIRM Shared Research Laboratory Grants—grants for dedicated laboratories for culturing human embryonic stem cells including core equipment and trained personnel. Additional grants in this category will be made for a course to teach culturing methods."
The agency said topics to be considered in the new requests for grant applications include:
"Self-renewal and differentiation of human embryonic stem cells;

"Derivation of new human embryonic stem cell lines, including disease-specific lines;

"Assessment of tumorigenicity of human embryonic stem cells and derived cells;

"Reprogramming of adult human somatic nuclei;

"Studies related to identification, storage, maintenance, stability and storage of human embryonic stem cells."
The preliminary grant budget approved by the agency calls for $69.5 million in the first year of the effort, declining to $20 million in the fourth year. The governor's loan is expected to cover the first two years with general obligation bonds the next two, assuming the agency prevails in court.

The agency also wrestled with its strategic plan and mission statement. It approved a "slogan" for its program: "Turning stem cells into cures."

The board apparently rejected suggestions to require more disclosure from scientists who review the applications for grants and make what are likely to be de facto decisions on most of them. The agency's press release said the committee approved conflict of interest regulations and made no mention of any changes from the draft presented to the panel.

Below is the full press release since it is not yet up on the CIRM web site.

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