Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Researcher Alert: Fresh Opportunities Looming for CIRM Cash

Drawing nearly all the attention nowadays at the California stem cell agency is selection of a new chairman, but real work is also going on.

That is not to underestimate the importance of the decision, but the trains still have to keep running at CIRM headquarters in San Francisco.

Next Monday, for example, the directors' Science Subcommittee will meet to consider matters that all potential grant applicants should be watching.

One involves a possible mechanism that could be used by some applicants to advance their cause with information not in the grant application. Its main purpose seems, however, to give reviewers a chance to dig deeper into a grant proposal. Another proposal before the committee would extend the more than $90 million "new faculty" grant program into another round. A third would create an "opportunity" fund controlled by the CIRM president. A blue-ribbon panel last fall recommended the idea.

No details were available on any of this on the CIRM web site as of Monday night, only four business days before the subcommittee meeting.

The agenda item on the grant application information was the most fulsome, but only said,
"Discussion of process for obtaining supplemental information from applicants for Clinical Trial and Disease Team grant rounds, including an opportunity to obtain information during Peer Review, subject to later staff confirmation, of additional information not presented in the application."
Even less information was offered up concerning the faculty program and the opportunity fund. However, in March , CIRM President Alan Trounson told CIRM directors,
"The Governing Board could create an 'Opportunity Fund' to be used by the President to rapidly provide continuation funds for projects identified by VP, R & D and members of the Clinical Advisory Panel as having been highly successful and their plan to move forward is compelling and competitive as assessed against defined criteria. This process would accelerate existing promising and competitive CIRM projects and reduce the amount of time spent writing proposals and in review. CIRM already has mechanisms to discontinue or cut back projects that are not making progress. This additional tool would allow CIRM to accelerate projects that are beating expectations."
Interested parties can participate in the discussion at telephonic locations in San Francisco, Irvine(2), La Jolla, Healdsburg and Stanford. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda.

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