Stem Cell Agency Approves Grant Program
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee on Wednesday approved plans to award 70 grants totaling $151.5 million to organizations conducting human embryonic stem cell research, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 8/3). CIRM was created under Proposition 71, which state voters approved in 2004 to provide $3 billion over 10 years to fund stem cell research.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last month authorized a $150 million bridge loan to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine one day after President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded federal funding for stem cell research (California Healthline, 7/21).
CIRM is expected to issue a formal call for grant applications this month, and the first round of grant approvals is expected in February, according to CIRM President Zach Hall (Eslinger, San Francisco Examiner, 8/3).
CIRM will award:
- As many as 25 comprehensive research grants to scientists who have successfully worked with stem cells or closely related fields associated with a long-term therapeutic goal. The four-year grants will be worth $400,000 annually;
- As many as 30 seed grants to fund research by scientists new to the field. The two-year grants will be worth $200,000 annually; and
- As many as 15 shared grants to develop laboratories dedicated to embryonic stem cell research, with additional funds going to five organizations to offer basic training in stem cell research. The shared grants would range from $2 million to $2.5 million for capital costs and as much as $400,000 annually for four years for ongoing costs and supplies (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 8/3).
Some ICOC members said they were concerned about the limited scope of the grant program.
Hall said a broader scope would attract too many applications and delay CIRM's efforts to begin awarding grants soon (San Francisco Examiner, 8/3). According to Hall, the agency plans "to fund all kinds of science" in the future but embryonic stem cell research is "the core of our mission" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/3).
Hall said that including administrative costs and overhead expenses the grant program would cost:
- $69.5 million in the first year;
- $37 million in the second year;
- $25 million in the third year; and
- $20 million in the fourth year (Oakland Tribune, 8/3).
Also on Wednesday, ICOC approved a final draft of CIRM's medical and ethical standards regulations.
Under the regulations, payment for human egg donations would be prohibited (San Francisco Examiner, 8/3). In addition, ICOC advisory board members would be required to disclose their investments and avoid making funding recommendations about businesses, universities or other entities to which they have financial, personal or professional ties (San Jose Mercury News, 8/3).