Thursday, October 07, 2010

CIRM Directors to Consider $600,000 Online Journal Plan

Coming up in only three business days is a meeting of the Finance Subcommittee of the California stem cell agency, which is expected to act on a $600,000 proposal to create an online scientific journal and alter CIRM's fledgling loan program for biotech businesses.

No specifics are available, however, from CIRM's Web site, which makes it difficult for interested parties to comment thoughtfully. In fact, the agency's de facto policy of regularly withholding until the last minute details on proposals coming before its directors discourages the public from commenting.

Also on tap is “consideration” of projected cash flows for the agency in connection with its strategic plan, which is scheduled for a sweeping, two-day, closed-door review next week. It is unclear why the cash flow matter is coming before the directors' Finance Subcommittee since it would not appear to require action. It may be a discussion proposal to set the stage for creating a policy for future expenditures – such as spending the agency's cash more rapidly -- sooner rather than later.

Regarding the loan policy, the agenda for the Finance meeting said only that the program, which originally was touted as a $500 million effort, would be amended. No other clue was offered concerning the changes. CIRM has made only one, $20 million loan in the program.

The journal proposal is part of the CIRM budget that was approved last June. At the time, CIRM President Alan Trounson told directors,
“What we would like to do is create an interest in one of the journals to bring out a translational journal which was focused on stem cell translation and for them to do all of the independent editing and all the reviewing and so forth.”
He said it was needed to provide a forum for discussion of regulatory issues and publication of research with negative results. He said that currently “translational papers” are scattered and hard to find.

We later asked for more details from CIRM. Don Gibbons, CIRM's chief communications officers, sent along a draft of an RFP. The proposed RFP dates back to July 26 and may well change. But it says that raising unique translational issues to a higher priority in journals would accelerate the entire field.

The draft RFP called for a three-year subsidy of the online, open access publication and required a business plan that would demonstrate self-sustainibility at the end of that period.

During next Tuesday's meeting, the public can participate at teleconference locations in San Francisco, San Diego, Stanford, Irvine and La Jolla. Specific addresses can be found on the meeting agenda.

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