Board is discussing strategies to attract researchers outside California as well as industry and venture capitalists.

The governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) approved the concept for a $30 million initiative intended to make the agency more nimble in seizing emerging opportunities in the rapidly evolving field. The so-called Opportunity Fund includes funds to aid with technology transfer, which will commence now, plus three other components that will be deliberated further by the science subcommittee of CIRM’s board and the full board.

The three components of the Opportunity Fund separately focus on additional funding through CIRM, pulling in researchers from outside California, and attracting industry, venture capitalists, and others to partner and support CIRM researchers.

  • The Bridge Fund Program will provide additional funding for selected CIRM projects. It would provide uninterrupted funding of promising science until the next relevant Request for Applications is offered, with the maximum supplement of $5 million.
  • The External Innovation Funding Program would provide a fellowship for scientists based outside California to spend time in California working with CIRM-funded investigators. The program would provide 12-month supplemental funding of up to $500,000 to an existing CIRM-funded research award.
  • The Strategic Partnership Program will foster funding from industry, venture capital, and others to support CIRM-funded programs. The support will be provided using a streamlined process involving a Program Announcement with rolling submissions and Grants Working Group reviews approximately twice a year. Qualifying projects would have a California-based lead scientist partnered with a nonprofit, a biotech company, or a biopharmaceutical company that will commit to in-kind support. Projects could also be composed of a California-based lead scientist who is funded primarily by venture capital or who has significant funding through foundation support or other sources.

The board chose to continue the highly successful 17 Training and 16 Bridges to Stem Cell Research programs for an additional three years each rather than issuing new requests for applications. The existing programs will be required to pass an in-depth review by CIRM staff before receiving extensions worth a total of $46 million for Training Awards and $26 million for Bridges to Stem Cell Research Awards.

The governing board also voted to accept a set of recommendations from its legislative subcommittee regarding four pieces of legislation:

  • To support the state legislation Assembly Bill 190 that would add $3 to the fine for all traffic violations and direct that money to the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Fund to be used for research in the field;
  • To support federal legislation, house bill 1862, The Regenerative Medicine Promotion Act of 2011, that would require a report identifying all federal regenerative medicine programs, establish within the Department of Health and Human Services an interagency Regenerative Medicine Coordinating Council that would prepare a national strategy for the field with specific priorities, and would authorize HHS to provide grants in the field (but no new funds are requested); and
  • To delegate the chair and vice chair of the legislative subcommittee to write a letter opposing portions of federal legislation in Senate Bill 23 and House Bill 1249 if the bill would block patenting the development of human organs.
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