Thursday, March 12, 2009

CIRM Gives Go-Ahead on $17.5 Million Training Program, Funding Deferred on $41 Million Round

This item is part of the continuing coverage today of the board meeting of the California stem cell agency based on its audiocast.

Directors of the financially troubled California stem cell agency today approved funding for $17.5 million in training grants for the state's community and state colleges, but delayed funding for 12 months a more advanced, $41 million training effort.

The vote followed recommendations from CIRM staff that reflected the fact that the agency will run out of cash this fall unless it can privately market state bonds, which are virtually its only source of funding.

The two rounds of training grants were approved in January but the board deferred decisions on payment timing until it had a better grasp of the agency's financial situation. The board stipulated that recipients in the $41 million round could go ahead with their programs this year and could be reimbursed later.

The motion to fund the community/state college grants was approved 9-0 and the training grants received a 8-2 go-ahead. Twenty-nine persons sit on the CIRM board, but most of them could not vote on the grants because of conflicts of interest. The conflicts also barred them taking part in the discussion.

The staff recommendation for funding the $17.5 million program was justified because the schools do not have access to other funding. Timing is also critical since the programs need to be set up soon so they are ready for the next school year.

Rollins Richmond(see photo), president of Humboldt State University, told the board,
"To back away now would place CIRM and this whole program in question."

Board members expressed confusion during the discussion of the funding issues concerning what grantees were being told about the status of funding from CIRM. CIRM President Alan Trounson said that grantees are being informed that their cash is "subject to funds being available." CIRM Chairman Robert Klein summarized the agency's position by saying, "This is a contract. The question is timing."

Klein has repeatedly emphasized that the grants are legally enforceable contracts.

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