Tuesday, October 21, 2014

California's $40 Million Alpha Clinic Round: Appeals Filed by Two Rejected Applicants

Two of the three rejected applicants in California’s $40 million-plus Alpha Stem Cell Clinic competition are seeking to overturn the decisions, but none of the cases is expected to be made public.

The appeals are being considered behind closed doors by the staff of the $3 billion state stem cell agency, which will make decisions on whether to proceed further. Directors of the agency are not expected to see the appeals at their public meeting on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Up until last year, appeals were considered in public by the board. The process was altered in the wake of often emotional outpourings involving patient advocates and the public. However, scientists and others can appear before the board on any matter, including applications. Researchers can also choose to disclose publicly their appeals.

The governing board is scheduled to ratify three awards in the Alpha round, which is designed to make the stem cell agency a one-stop, global center for stem cell treatments. The Alpha effort also will help to fund additional clinical trials aimed at afflictions ranging from cancer to heart disease.

The expected winners are the City of Hope, UC San Diego and UCLA, based on an analysis by the California Stem Cell Report. A fourth applicant is on the fence. The agency declines to reveal the names of applicants for fear of embarrassing rejected institutions and researchers. In response to a query, Don Gibbons, a spokesman for the agency, Monday said two applicants had filed appeals.

The agency’s blue-ribbon, out-of-state scientific reviewers make the de facto decisions on funding of applications during closed-door meetings. The agency’s governing  board almost never overturns the reviewers’ positive decision for funding. Occasionally, the board will approve funding for a rejected application.

Summaries of the reviews can be found here.

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