Saturday, January 18, 2014

California Stem Cell Agency to Hand Out $80 Million for Stem Cell, Genomics Research

Directors of the California stem cell agency are set to give away up to $80 million late this month as they pursue their efforts to turn research into cures.

The most attention-getting award round would create one or two stem cell-genome centers in California that the agency says will advance medicine and make the Golden State a world leader in stem cell genomics. Cost of the effort could run as high as $40 million.

The initial review of the applications last year was marked by a conflict of interest involving reviewer Lee Hood of Seattle, Wash., an internationally known genomics researcher, and Irv Weissman of Stanford, who was involved in one of the applications. The conflict was first reported by the California Stem Cell Report and subsequently received attention in international scientific publications. 

The other $40 million round (possibly 30 awards) is a continuation of the agency's basic biology funding. CIRM, however, is increasingly turning towards research that is either in a clinical trial or close to one. It is seeking to fulfill the promises of the 2004 ballot campaign that created the agency and also to create some excitement that will lead to more funding of the agency, which is scheduled to run out of cash in less than three years.

Also on the agenda for the Jan. 29 meeting in Berkeley is the search for a new president and unspecified changes in CIRM rules that deal with research involving human eggs. More details are expected to appear on the agenda in the coming week along with summaries of the grant review applications and scores.

The California Stem Cell Report will have more on the genomics round also in the coming week.

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