Monday, August 19, 2019

Coming Up Next Month: Final Award Decisions by California's $3 Billion Stem Cell Agency?

The California stem cell agency, which is running out of cash for new awards, has cancelled a meeting this week at which it was scheduled to approve funding for more clinical stage research.

The action sets the stage for a full discussion and decisions by the agency board in late September on its last likely research awards unless it receives a substantial infusion of cash. Known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the agency was created by voters in 2004 with $3 billion. That has dwindled to $71 million, although $28 million is committed to sickle cell anemia.

CIRM is pinning its hopes for survival on a possible ballot initiative in November 2020 to provide it with another $5.5 billion. 

In response to a question about the status of the meeting once scheduled for this Thursday, Kevin McCormack, CIRM senior director of communications, noted that the last of the clinical stage applications are being reviewed this month. He said,
"There may be more projects to fund than money."
McCormack said,
"We will be bringing all meritorious projects to the board in September to make funding decisions.  In addition, the full board (not the Application Review Subcommittee) must decide whether or not to redirect money to the Translation bucket in order to fund  those that were not funded last month."
CIRM's funding squeeze generated considerable discussion at the July meeting, including appearances by scientists seeking awards. The full transcript of that session can be found here. 

The application review subcommittee is a subset of the full 29-member board, which includes a number of representatives from institutions that receive awards. The subcommittee was created to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interests on the part of the CIRM board. 

September's meeting will be based at the Oakland headquarters of the agency. It is also scheduled to be audiocast live with Internet access. Additional physical locations are expected to be announced for teleconference access. The public can participate in the meetings via the Internet and at the teleconference locations. 
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