Tuesday, September 15, 2015

California's Stem Cell Agency Meets This Month to Award Millions, Discuss Performance Improvements

This month’s meeting of the governing board of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, already the subject of some unhappiness from patient advocates, will be staged from 12 different teleconference locations on Sept. 24.

All but one site is in California. One board member, Lauren Miller, will be logging in from Atlanta for what is expected to be about an hour-long meeting.

This month’s session was originally scheduled for San Diego, where board members and staff would have been available for face-to-face discussions with the public. But the San Francisco-based agency switched the meeting to a teleconference session because of estimates that it would last only an hour.

The move upset Parkinson’s patient advocates in San Diego, who planned to attend the session in their area to speak about the need for funding for research into a possible cure for the affliction. They already have protested delays in funding at the July meeting of the board in Oakland.

On this month’s agenda are mostly routine matters considered earlier by board subcommittees that are expected to be quickly approved. Also on the agenda is consideration of presumably multi-million dollar applications for clinical stage research proposals. The board nearly invariably rubber-stamps the actions of its blue-ribbon panel of application reviewers. No information is yet available on those applications.

Up for discussion is a plan to correct unspecified deficiencies identified in a $230,000 performance audit of the agency.  The study, commissioned by the agency and required by law, said the agency needed to improve its procedures involving conflicts of interest and grant application reviewers. Also identified as an area needing work is the tracking of potential royalties. No board action is expected to be necessary this month to implement the plan.

The agency’s president, Randy Mills, is additionally scheduled to give an update on the agency’s strategic plan, which is being reformulated. The board has roughly $1 billion left before its cash for new applications runs out in 2020.

No background information has yet been posted on the meeting agenda for any item to be discussed or acted on. The California Stem Cell Report will carry items on the material as it becomes available. If interested parties would like to submit comments to the board in advance of the meeting, they can be addressed to mbonneville@cirm.ca.gov.

The teleconference locations where the public can participate in the meeting and comment can be found on the agenda.  The session is scheduled to be audiocast on the Internet as well. Directions will be placed on the agenda. 

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