Thursday, July 16, 2020

California's $40 Million Stem Cell Genomics Center: Its Fate and Outcomes

California's stem cell agency hit something of a milestone six years ago when it approved $40 million to create a genomics center that was aimed at positioning the state as a global leader in stem cell genomics. 

The round triggered complaints about irregularities, unfairness, score manipulation and the role of its then president, Alan Trounson. The $40 million, at the time the largest single research award by the agency, was ultimately divided three ways and now has been spent. 

The California Stem Cell Report queried the agency this week about the award, its status and results. Here is the response in Q&A format.

Q: How was the $40 million shared and with which institutions?
A: The genomics grant was split into three awards: $22.7M to Stanford (GC1R-06673-A), $13.2M to the Salk Institute (GC1R-06673-B), $4M to UC Santa Cruz (GC1R-06673-C). (The application numbers carry links to the progress reports on the CIRM website.) 

Q: Is there any requirement for the grantees to come up with a plan for continued funding? 
A: There was no requirement for the grantees to come up with a plan for continual funding in the concept RFA.  Stanford and Salk provided co-funding to support the centers during the award period.

Q: If not, what prevents the doors from closing at the genomics center(s) in the next couple of years?
A: The Stanford sequencing center established by the genomics awards continues to operate with other sources of funding.  The Stem Cell Data Hub established by UCSC continues to be supported.  UCSC has no plans to shut down the site even though its CIRM award has ended. 

Q: How much time remains on the grant(s)? I See there was at least one extension given, but it is unclear why there was delay.
A: All three genomics grants have ended as of May 31st.  The sequencing centers at Stanford and the Salk were given six month award extensions to continue supporting projects with technical delays in sequencing activities.  The data hub at UCSC was given a 12 month extension to process data generated by the sequencing centers.

Q: What else do readers need to know about this award? 
A: A number of outputs were generated from genomic center projects, including:
  • 60 publications connected to CESCG funding
  • 10 data analysis/visualization tools created
  • 1 new sequencing technique developed
  • 300 new iPSC lines created
  • Central online data hub created with standard metadata, analysis pipelines, restricted access
  • Data repository of human single cell global transcription in heart, pancreas, blood, brain, brain
  • 84TB data generated from sequencing activities across projects


Read all about California's stem cell agency, including Proposition 14,  in David Jensen's new book. Buy it on Amazon:  California's Great Stem Cell Experiment: Inside a $3 Billion Search for Stem Cell Cures. Click here for more information on the author.

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