CIRM, the California stem cell agency, has funded hundreds of grants during its relatively short existence. You can do searches of these grants through a handy dandy web portal that CIRM has made available–it’s a very cool tool and I commend CIRM for making it available.
I wish the tool had more options however including searching for specific key words and also sorting or delimiting by year. CIRM, can you please add those to your search tool?
What are CIRM’s priorities as reflected strictly by its funded grants?
Taking one angle to find out, I took every title of CIRM-funded grants and plugged them together into Wordle, a free word cloud forming utility, and out popped the above word cloud.
Not surprisingly, the top 3 words can be put together into a phrase:
Human stem cells (cell)
Human stem cell research is the heart of CIRM. It will fund work on stem cells from other species, but only rarely.
Coming in next in the list of top words of CIRM-funded grant titles was “embryonic” reflecting CIRM’s overall strong commitment to funding of embryonic stem cell research.
I found it fascinating that the next top word was “differentiation“. As much as we all focus on stem cells in their native state, clearly the differentiation of stem cells is critically important.
Next we found two words essentially tied: Pluripotent and disease.
CIRM will fund research on non-pluripotent stem cells, but clearly it is most interested in the pluripotent type.
I find it interesting that the word “disease” popped up. Part of this might reflect its presence in some CIRM ‘disease team’ grants. But after all, a crucial goal is fighting disease.
Development and training came up next.
A surprise for me was how small the word “induced” was considering the excitement over induced pluripotent stem cells. I also find it surprising how few specific diseases come up significantly. I see “cancer” and “Parkinson’s” but they are pretty small words and I don’t see other diseases.
Whether you are a CIRM employee or a CIRM grantee or a future CIRM grant applicant or a patient advocate, pay attention to the big words in this word cloud. They reflect arguably more than anything else CIRM’s funding priorities.