California's young stem cell agency has extracted promises of nearly $500 million in matching funds to help build what it calls one of the most ambitious medical-science lab-construction programs in the nation's history.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, said that the 12 competitors for $262 million in CIRM lab construction grants raised matching dollars to bolster their bids to snag state cash in May. The agency will give preference to institutions with larger matching funds.
Robert Klein, the multimillionaire real estate investment banker who chairs CIRM, hailed the $758 million total (comprising $496 million in matching funds plus $262 million in CIRM grants) as unprecedented.
Klein, who is given to prolix statements, said in an announcement that the $758 million will provide "a research-infrastructure-building program that historically exceeds any prior state-government research-facilities program for a new field of medical science anywhere in the U.S."
The new stem cell labs will make the Golden State "an ideal environment for all avenues of stem cell science," CIRM's Alan Trounson said in a statement. Trounson is the Australian scientist who immigrated to the United States to become president of CIRM.
California's stem cell agency, created by voters in 2004, is now the world's leading funding source for human-embryonic-stem cell research and has created a global scientific splash. It hosted the International Stem Cell Forum in San Francisco in 2008, a consortium of the leading stem cell funding agencies in the world.
CIRM is backed by $3 billion in California state bonds. Its $262 million lab-construction grant program is the largest single round of grants in the stem cell agency's history. However, the amount falls short of the $336 million requested for lab construction by the 12 applicants, which include some of the most prestigious stem cell research organizations in the world.
Those who will be disappointed may well be the ones with smaller amounts of matching funds. However, Klein said in an interview that he may ask some applicants to reduce their requests, in an effort to allow all applicants to receive at least some funding.
The largest single "matching and leverage" amount -- a whopping $150 million -- came from Stanford University, which is seeking a $50 million grant from CIRM. The CIRM press release includes a complete list of the grant requests and matching funds.
Illustration: The University of California, San Francisco, wants to build this stem cell research laboratory. --Artist's rendering/UCSF.
California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Press Release (02/28/08)