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Close Scrutiny Needed as First Stem Cell Grants Offered to For-Profit Companies, Consumers Say
Date:11/30/2007

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Nov. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- California's stem cell agency is inviting for-profit companies to apply for research grants for the first time, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) noted today and the non-partisan, non-profit consumer advocacy organization vowed to scrutinize the awards process to prevent abuse.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has just issued calls for applications for two types of grants. CIRM said it planned to fund up to 20 six-month disease team planning grants for a total of $1.1 million. The stem cell agency has also ear marked $25 million for up to 16 three-year grants to develop new stem cell lines.

"We've already seen an example of an improper attempt by a stem cell board member to influence an award to his non-profit research institution," said John M. Simpson, FTCR's Stem Cell Project Director. "The possibility of abuse is even greater when the biotech industry goes after the money."

Researchers from both universities and companies will compete head-to-head for the grants. CIRM staff have vowed that only the quality of the science in the proposed projects will determine who gets the money. The grants will be awarded in the spring.

So far CIRM has awarded about $210 million in research, training and facilities grants. All that money has gone to universities and non-profit research institutions. When Californians approved Proposition 71 funding the state's $6-billion stem cell project, they approved giving money to companies as well as universities and research institutions.

Companies have not been able to apply for grants because the Intellectual Property (IP) regulations governing who controls any discoveries made with CIRM-funded research had not been created for businesses. Those IP rules are expected to be approved at the stem cell oversight board's December meeting.

"Biotech companies will clearly play an i
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SOURCE Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights
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