The Amazing Path of CIRM in its first 5 years

In it’s first five years in existence, CIRM has awarded almost $1.2 billion for stem cell research in the state of California in the form of just over 400 grants.

To give you some perspective on that amount of research funding, let’s compare this CIRM funding to NIH funding for stem cell research across the entire country during the same period of time.

Using the NIH grant search tool, RePORTER, I searched for grants with the title words “stem cell” or “pluripotency” or “pluripotent” that were funded during the last 5 years.

The search brought back about 3400 grants.

This means that the entire NIH funding grants for all 50 states only funded 8 times more total stem cell grants than did CIRM for just California during this period. In addition, every year of a single research grant at NIH comes back independently in this search meaning a 3 or 4 year grant would count as 3 or 4 grants in the search, not 1 grant– so in reality NIH had probably funded around 1000 stem cell grants during the period that CIRM funded 400. Not that different.

How about total dollars of support of stem cell research at NIH?

It’s difficult to say, but based on average funding of research grants, the NIH funding during this period for stem cell research would be around $1 billion, perhaps $1.5 billion. Thus, the total amount of funding dollars for stem cell research by NIH and CIRM during CIRM’s existence are again not that different.

This is a truly remarkable achievement by CIRM. The quality of stem cell research funded by CIRM is also on par with NIH.

As we look ahead, even with the Bush Jr. years fading behind us, the role of CIRM is if anything more important.

Federal court cases jeopardize stem cell research. A hostile Republican Congress is proposing to cut the NIH budget even as the percentage of grants that NIH is able to fund is poised to drop to its lowest level. Republican governors are doing what they can to ban state funding of ES cell research.

The field is under serious attack on these fronts.

Where would we be without CIRM?  It’s hard to imagine because CIRM has changed the reality and is continuing to accelerate stem cell research even in the uncertain climate for stem cell funding in U.S. today.

1 thought on “The Amazing Path of CIRM in its first 5 years”

  1. Paul, thanks for doing this analysis. I want to add that in addition to funding a large amount of stem cell research, a lot of it is the type of research that NIH wouldn’t fund. For example, our Disease Team awards, which fund an entire team of scientists working toward clinical trials. Also, our Early Translation awards are a stage of research that the NIH isn’t likely to fund.

    It’s scary to think where the field will be without NIH funding in addition to what the states can give.


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