Thursday, August 21, 2008

CIRM's Secret 18 Disclosed

The Consumer Watchdog group today pulled away a bit of the veil of pseudo-secrecy that surrounds much of the grant process at California's $3 billion stem cell agency.

CIRM – most of the time – refuses to disclose the names of enterprises or individuals seeking its taxpayer-financed largess, unless they have actually won some CIRM cash. However, the agency chooses to identify applicants when it is convenient for CIRM purposes, as was the case in the mammoth lab grant program earlier this year.

John M. Simpson
, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., has long contended that good government practices demand the release of the names of those who seek funding from the state of California.

Today on his blog, he disclosed the names of 18 companies that were looking for grants from CIRM. Only one, Novocell, eventually received a grant, despite oft-expressed desires by some CIRM directors that California companies should receive the benefit of state financing.

Simpson noted that some rejected business applicants have complained about CIRM's review process, contending that it "is skewed towards academic science." Some CIRM directors have also questioned the approach of its scientific reviewers, saying that they may overlook worthwhile efforts that are heavily focused on bringing cures into the hospital. Simpson suggested that the companies he identified might want to get together and talk.

Simpson said the names were drawn from a document "used for internal CIRM vetting processes" involving letters of intent, which are required in order to apply for a grant. Simpson wrote:

"Here's the list of firms which filed an LOI (letters of intent) to apply for the Disease Team Planning Grant:  Advanced Cell Technology, Alameda; BioCardia Inc., South San Francisco; DNAmicroarray Inc., San Diego; Genomics Institue of Novartis Research Foundation, San Diego; International Stem Cell Corp., Oceanside, Novocell, San Diego; Panorama Research Inc., Mountain View; RegeneMed Inc., San Diego; StemCyte Inc., Covina; and Stemedica Cell Technologies, San Diego.

"Here are the companies that filed an LOI to apply for New Cell Lines Grant:  Advanced Cell Technology, Alameda; BioTime, Inc., Emeryville; California Institute of Molecular Medicine, Ventura; Cascade Life Sciences Inc, San Diego; DNAmicroarray Inc., San Diego; Gene Security Network, Portola Valley; International Stem Cell Corp., Oceanside, Raven Biotechnologies Inc., South San Francisco; RegeneMed Inc., San Diego; Supercentenarian Research Foundation, Inglewood; VistaGen Therapeutics Inc., South San Francisco and WaferGen Biosystems, Fremont."

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