Tuesday, January 28, 2014

$21 Million Likely for California's Basic Stem Cell Research

Directors of the California stem cell agency tomorrow are expected to approve at least $21 million for basic research into “significant, unresolved issues in human stem cell biology.”

The round was originally slated for $40 million but grant reviewers decided to fund only 20 applications out of 62. The round began with 341 scientists filing pre-applications.

(Here is a link to reviewers' summaries and rankings as well as a link to the CIRM staff's Power Pointpresentation.)

CIRM President Alan Trounson and his staff recommended approval of five additional applications totaling$4.8 million. The rationale in their recommendations could be considered fulsome compared to what Trounson offered on the $40 million genomics round also to be considered tomorrow.

Five additional researchers filed letters with the CIRM governing board seeking its approval. Those letters can be found on the agenda for tomorrow's meeting. Seven researchers filed formal appeals with the CIRM, which are now dealt with behind closed doors by the agency's staff.

The 20 applicants given the nod by reviewers were placed in a tier one category that is virtually certain to be approved by the board with no debate. Others were ranked in a wobbler category called tier two, meaning it could go either way for the scientists. The remainder fell into tier three – not recommended for funding by reviewers.

The board is increasingly turning to proposals that will turn more advanced research into clinical treatments. If directors do not go for spending the entire $40 million budgeted, they would save money that could be used for clinical trials. However, aside from the general arguments for doing basic research, those grants provide large sums to recipient institutions to pay for their overhead. And many of the agency's board members come from institutions that could benefit from payments for those overhead costs. Those board members will not be allowed to vote on applications involving their institutions.

(Editor's note: The number of researchers filing formal appeals was not contained in an earlier version of this article.)

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