by Steven Ertelt
August 23, 2006
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — The California stem cell research committee is asking for more proposals for research grants under two new programs, but a spokesman for a taxpayers group says he’s concerned the agency is rushing the grant approval process. The agency previously came under fire for making all of its last round of grants related to embryonic stem cell research.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, created by Proposition 71 in 2004, asked Tuesday for proposals under the a program for new ideas and researchers in stem cell science and another funding established and ongoing studies.
CIRM will award as much as $24 million over two years for 30 new stem cell research programs and $80 million over four years for established research.
Academic and nonprofit groups can apply for the grants.
But John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said the committee still lacks adequate rules ensuring that any cures are affordable for all Californians.
Simpson is concerned that the pressure to show results from a program that was stalled by legal challenges could lead to hastily made and poorly considered grants that waste public money.
"Haste makes waste," Simpson said, in a statement obtained by LifeNews.com.
"With $6 billion of taxpayer money at stake, I’m glad to see the stem cell institute is allowing enough time for a thorough scientific review process, I hope they take full advantage of it," Simpson explained. "But more important is that before any money goes out the door they need rules ensuring that all Californians can afford the fruits of any research."
Under CIRM’s guidelines for the new grants, letters of intent are due on September 15, full applications are due October 13 and November 13 and grants will be awarded in March 2007.
"It’s imperative that all proposals are vetted with the utmost care, based completely on their scientific merit, " Simpson said. "FTCR will be among those watching and insisting that happens. The process must be completely transparent."
A working group made up of 15 scientists from outside of California and seven patient advocates will review the applications and make recommendations to the stem cell oversight committee about what grants should be funded.
"The scientific advisors should be required to disclose their financial interests publicly," Simpson said.
Under regulations just approved by the oversight committee, the advisors will file disclosure statements with the agency that will be available to the state auditor. However, the information will not be made public.
Earlier this month, the agency announced it would fund $151 million in grants. However, the agency announced the funding would go only to those working with embryonic stem cell research and it’s came unde fire from researchers who say that decision was misguided.
Pro-life advocates have been the leading opponents of embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of human life to be done.
But, numerous scientists and other groups joined them in saying that adult stem cell research has done more to advance science and holds out more hope for patients.
Two researchers told the San Mateo County Times newspaper that the California committee should have spent at least part of the grant money on stem cell research involving animals or adult stem cells.
"I’m a little uncomfortable with it," Richard Murphy, president and CEO of the Salk Institute, a nonprofit biological research institute in San Diego, told the newspaper. "It may be the next big discovery is not in human (embryonic stem cell research)."
Paul Berg, Nobel laureate and biochemistry professor at Stanford University, agreed and said that those working with animal stem cells should have also gotten money.
"If they have a new idea, they’re not going to go right to human," Berg said. "They would start with mouse embryonic stem cells."
Thanks to a $150 million dollar loan Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized from the state government to the state’s embryonic stem cell research committee could fund the grants.
Related web sites:
Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights – https://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org