Tuesday, August 11, 2015

California's Stem Cell Research Performance; Agency Schedules More Awards

Overview of applications and funding outcomes in CIRM 2.0 as of July 23 -- CIRM chart

One contract signed
17 applications received
Demand leveling off
Mills says 'metrics' good

The governing board of the $3 billion California stem cell agency is scheduled to meet on Aug. 20 to give away more millions for late stage preclinical research as part of its ambitious and "radical" overhaul of its funding effort.

The one-hour teleconference meeting will have its­­­ main location in San Francisco. Seven other offsite locations are also available for the public, ranging from Napa to San Diego.

The only item on the agenda is consideration of an unspecified number applications for funding work leading up to a clinical trial. (See here for the request for proposals -- PA15-01.)

The number of applications to be considered and their review summaries are not yet available on the Web site of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known. However, they are part of what CIRM President Randy Mills calls CIRM 2.0, what he terms a “radical” change in the way the agency handles applications.

Deadlines for applications in this late-stage research round, funded at $100 million for this fiscal year, come up at the end of every month. The goal is to generate better applications and speed the cash to researchers.

The program began Jan. 1. So far, only one contract has been signed for a research project, Mills reported to the CIRM governing board on July 23. ­­­ However, four have been approved by the CIRM governing board out of 17 that applied between January and June. 

“The demand is leveling down more closely to what we thought it would be. So in May we received three applications, in June we received two applications.
“The review team was very worried in April when we had five applications because that's more than we actually anticipated we would have, but it seems to be normalizing down around the two or three a month area which is closer to what we had predicted.
 “One other thing I want to point out here -- which was neat in April -- is we sent three programs for what we call budget review. And that's before we send these things to the grants working group for actual scientific adjudication, we send them for external budget review to make sure that the budgets are appropriate for the scope of work being offered.
“We actually had one fail. And I like that because that says that system is working. And if something is going to go through the process and have a budget that's not justifiable, we're able to catch it, and we're able to kick it out. In this case we made them go back and think through their budget a little more closely.
“With all that said, it seems to be working well from a metrics standpoint. We're very pleased. Only in January did we have the one delay, and we haven't had an off mark since.”
In addition to San Francisco, Napa and San Diego, locations where the public can participate in the meeting and lobby for or against a specific research application can be found in Irvine, Redwood City, Sacramento and Los Gatos. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda.

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