Board Considers Strategic Plan for Stem Cell Agency
The governing board of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine "informally endorsed" a strategic plan for the $3 billion in stem cell research grants that the agency will award over 10 years, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. State voters in 2004 approved Proposition 71, under which the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee oversees CIRM.
ICOC met for two days this week in San Francisco.
The strategic plan includes proposals for 25 initiatives to:
- Build laboratory facilities;
- Fund research projects; and
- Develop treatments for diseases.
Proposition 71 permits CIRM to award as much as $350 million annually over 10 years and includes a provision that allows the agency to carry over some funds from one year to award in another year. Because of legal challenges to the measure, the agency has been unable to award grants in its first two years, meaning that the agency could have access to as much as $1 billion in 2007 if the lawsuits are resolved in CIRM's favor.
However, the agency likely will not disburse the full amount, in part because of inadequate numbers of grants and insufficient agency staff and grant reviewers to facilitate awarding that much money. CIRM is recruiting additional staff and reviewers.
ICOC Chair Robert Klein said that agency will spend more than $350 million in 2007. He said as much as $220 million in research grants could be awarded, depending on the quality of grant proposals.
The strategic plan calls for $125 million in research funding for 2007, including:
- $53 million as the first installment of a four-year "jump-start initiative" on basic stem cell research;
- $13 million for scientific training programs; and
- $20 million for projects aimed at translating research into clinical applications.
CIRM President Zach Hall said that the funding amounts are estimates within a funding range and added that funding amounts would shift as research priorities develop.
The Chronicle reports that CIRM also will have to repay a $150 million state loan and about $45 million in philanthropic loans (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/12).
Also in its meeting, ICOC approved criteria that allow reviewers to consider geography in awarding 15 grants for "minor renovations and construction" for lab space that stem cell researchers from different institutions will share, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The grants are worth about $32 million.
Hall and ICOC member Duane Roth said they do not expect geography to be a major consideration in subsequent grant awards because more funding will be available.
CIRM plans to request grant applications from scientists, research institutions and universities (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/12).