Friday, April 24, 2009

CIRM: Some Scientists' Grants to be Pulled

Some researchers who have been funded by California's $3 billion stem cell agency are going to lose their grants because of a lack of progress, according to a top CIRM official.

John Robson
, CIRM vice president for operations, made the statement April 14 at a meeting of the Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee, a five-member panel chaired by state Controller John Chiang, California's top fiscal officer. The committee is is charged with assessing CIRM's financial practices.

Robson's remarks came as part of a general response to questions about risk assessments by CIRM.

According to the transcript, he said,
"....(W)e get annual reviews, progress reports and our science officers go through those. And it's not a perfunctory exercise. They go through these things quite carefully. If there's things they don't understand or if it doesn't look (like) there's been much progress, they call up the PI (principal investigator) and they say, 'What's going on? You know, we've seen these experiments being done. What's your progress?' And then we work from there.

"If it turns out that there's no progress, we can cut the grant. I suspect that's going to happen. Some people are going to lose some grants."
Ruth Holton-Hodson, deputy controller for health and consumer policy, raised the questions about risk. She chaired the meeting in the absence of Chiang, who had suffered a foot injury, and said she brought up the matter on his behalf.

The Citizens Financial Accountability Oversight Committee is not to be confused with CIRM's Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, which is the 29-member CIRM board of directors. Chiang, a Democrat, is a statewide elected official. He was given the role of chairman of the financial accountability committee by Prop. 71, the ballot measure that created CIRM.

The CIRM board of directors meets next Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Angeles. Item No. 8 on the agenda is an "update on CIRM grantee progress report monitoring." No further details were provided on the agenda on that item.

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