Grant proposals undergo a two-tier review process. An external advisory committee first reviews the proposals and assigns priority scores on the basis of the merit and the appropriateness of the proposal to the program’s goals. Using those rankings, the Scientific Steering Committee decides on the distribution of funds. Grants are administered through the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at the University of California at Irvine. Except for its core facility, which serves the Roman Reed Research Program, the Reeve-Irvine Research Center is funded separately. The 3 principal investigators located at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center and the 15 research associates on the campus apply for Roman Reed Research Program funds just as other California-based researchers do. The center also receives NIH contract funding, totaling $2.6 million for 2003 through 2008, for training and research facilities for spinal cord injury research. This center also holds an NIH FOR-SCI contract to replicate the findings from other laboratories.
A key goal of the program is to foster collaboration and communication, both for scientists and for the lay public. Beginning in 2002 the program has sponsored an annual Roman Reed Research Meeting, which includes presentations by grant recipients, a poster session for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that allows sharing of preliminary research findings, and a Meet the Scientists Forum for scientists and the lay public. The purpose of the meeting is to bring investigators together as they launch projects to promote collaborations and devise experiments that take advantage of economies of scale (Box 8-8).
In November 2004 California voters approved Proposition 71, which provides a fresh infusion of about $295 million annually for stem cell research in California (approximately $3 billion over 10 years).5 The financing for the research comes from state-issued long-term bonds. A substantial portion of the funds allocated during the first years of the program will go to the establishment of research facilities. The goal of Proposition 71 is to circumvent specific restrictions on NIH funding of stem cell research projects involving human embryos. Although it gives priority to embryonic stem cell research, the proposition broadly covers stem cells of all types, whether they come from an embryo, a fetus, or an adult or from humans or animals. The proposition explicitly prohibits human reproductive cloning research.
Proposition 71 is likely to benefit spinal cord injury research, one of the commonly named conditions identified to benefit from stem cell research.