Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CIRM's Next Six Years: Stem Cell Agency Re-examines Its Priorities

The California stem cell agency is taking a fresh look at its strategic plan as it drives more aggressively to develop therapies that can actually be used in the clinic. The re-examination is likely to have an impact on business and academic researchers alike.

The first public session is in Los Angeles today. Tomorrow the 29 members of the CIRM board of directors tackle the subject in Irvine. On Halloween, another session is scheduled for the public in San Francisco.

Little fresh information is being provided for the Los Angeles and San Francisco meetings. But directors will have a document prepared by Ellen Feigal, CIRM's vice president for research and development.

One goal of tomorrow's discussion is to deal with priorities for the six next years, which may well be the agency's last. CIRM is scheduled to run out of funds in 2017 unless it receives more bond funding from the state or cash from other sources. Also on the table are possible changes in CIRM operations, ranging from grant review criteria to RFA content.

Feigal's document, the best we have seen on the strategic plan since the first version in 2006, asks the question: "What would success look like?" The purpose is to trigger responses from the CIRM board members.

Feigal writes that "stem cell-based therapies are the core of CIRM's mission."
"Getting treatments in clinical trials that evolved from stem cell research, we plan to do this in the following ways:
"Show great strides getting game-changing, innovative therapies into clinical trials that would not have happened without CIRM
"Transform public thought about science and medicine so the public better understands the dynamic connection between basic research and clinical development"
Feigal proposes that CIRM work to establish California as the "Stem Cell State" and stimulate its biotech industry.

She identifies some weaknesses at CIRM including relations with industry and communications. She suggests that scientific reviewers need to have a broader view of the agency's work. And she cites the need for prioritizing activities. She said CIRM needs to be "cautious about the 'let a thousand flowers bloom' approach.

The last round on strategic planning triggered a sharp discussion involving fears that CIRM would give short shrift to basic science. This latest proposal is likely stir that pot again as basic researchers become concerned that less grant money will flow to their projects.

Feigal's document came late to the public and was posted only last Friday, three business days before the CIRM board meeting tomorrow. It was one of two major subjects before directors that lacked background until very recently. The other is the communications proposal that dovetails with the strategic plan.

CIRM's timetable for completing the latest revision of the strategic plan calls for final approval by the CIRM board of directors in March 2012.


  1. Anonymous3:33 PM

    Is there anything new from CIRM here? If there is, it is hard to find. Wasn't this written in 2006?

  2. Anonymous3:37 PM

    Come on David, CIRM has been asking itself what success would look like for 5+ years, and there's nothing new under the sun here. You are usually more discerning. Have you been raiding the cool-aid dispenser at CIRM?


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