Thursday, March 19, 2015

California to Spend Nearly $16 Million More for Preclinical Stem Cell Research

The California stem cell agency next Thursday is expected to award $15.8 million to five scientists to help push their research into clinical use for afflictions ranging from arthritis to the “bubble boy” syndrome.

Another five researchers have been told that they need to improve their proposals and can bring them back to the agency in July. They will then be considered under the agency’s new, aggressive CIRM 2.0 program to speed action on development of stem cell therapies.

CIRM is the abbreviation for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the official name of the $3 billion agency. Its president, Randy Mills, who has been in place since last May, is overhauling the agency’s grant process with sharp eye on faster development and calls the effort CIRM 2.0.

The applications scheduled to be acted by the CIRM board on March 26 in Berkeley are for early preclinical research that is ready for transition to the next preclinical stage. CIRM originally budgeted $40 million for this round.

The top five applications received scores ranging from 90 to 75 and covered possible therapies involving spina bifida, arthritis, Huntington’s Disease, diabetic wounds and SCID-X1(bubble boy syndrome).

The five in tier two total $27.3 million. A memo to the CIRM board from Mills said,
“While CIRM recognizes that some applications not in Tier 1 do have the potential to positively impact the field, none was without flaw and all could be improved with further refinement. Unfortunately, the application and review system for this RFA does not accommodate iterative refinement and resubmission, a key feature of CIRM 2.0. As a result, CIRM recommends that interested applicants consider improving their submission and reapplying under the CIRM 2.0 Translational program that will be brought to the ICOC (the CIRM board) in July.”
Mills also said the researchers may be able to resubmit their proposals under the current CIRM 2.0 process which is accepting applications at the end of each month.

The scores on each application in the two top tiers can be found on this 90-page document, which also includes summaries of the comments made during the closed-door grant review process. 

The names of the applicants have been withheld by the agency, although they can often be deduced by discerning readers. The names of the scientific reviewers are also not released. Scores on the rejected applications were not posted by the agency.

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