Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another $22 Million to Go to 17 California Stem Cell Research Institutions

Directors of the California stem cell agency today approved a $22 million extension of the $50 million shared lab program that was scheduled to expire in 2012.

CIRM said the programs at 17 research institutions are a "valuable resource." A CIRM memo declared,
"These labs provide dedicated (safe harbor) research space, specialized instrumentation, a supply of cell lines and culture materials, and stem cell expertise. Additionally, they supply instruction and training in cutting-edge methods both as formally offered courses and one-on-one, customized instruction. This training function extends to the CIRM Bridges programs that rely on the Shared Labs to provide basic stem cell techniques courses for Bridges trainees. Furthermore, the Shared Labs serve as foci for collaboration, networking, and information exchange for stem cell research communities at the various institutions."
CIRM staff said CIRM funds cover about 20 to 25 percent of the cost of running the labs.

Duane Roth, a San Diego businessman and co-vice chairman of the CIRM board, raised a question about whether the productivity of each shared lab was evaluated as part of the proposal. The answer was no. Subsequently, the board directed the staff to provide such evaluations in the future.

Roth noted that CIRM's external review panel has recommended that the agency should focus on funding only the best programs.

The CIRM board has 29 members but only eight in attendance today could vote on the extension. The others had connections to the grant recipients that created a legal conflict of interest.

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