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Stem Cell Information

October 10, 2003, Summary

NIH Stem Cell Task Force

Members Present:

James Battey, NIDCD (Chair); Arlene Chiu, NINDS; Robert Hammond, NIDDK; Richard Tasca, NICHD; Judith Vaitukaitis, NCRR

Other Participants:

Laura Cole, NIDCD; Tom Johnson, OSP; Lisa Montney, NIDCD; Anne White-Olson, NIDCD; Baldwin Wong, NIDCD

I. Welcome

Dr. Battey welcomed the members to the seventh meeting of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force and thanked them for their continued commitment. Mr. Wong introduced Dr. Lisa Montney, an intern in the DHHS Emerging Leaders Program, who is currently on assignment at NIDCD and is assisting in the activities of the Task Force. In addition to managing the activities of the Task Force, Mr. Wong's office also responds to public inquiries about stem cell research. If the Task Force members receive these types of inquires, they may forward them to Mr. Wong's office for responding. Because most of the inquiries are requesting information about possible use of stem cells to treat a specific disease or disorder, disease-specific information from the ICs will be helpful in supplementing the response.

II. Approval of July 17, 2003, Meeting Minutes

The Task Force members approved the summary of the July 17 meeting, which will be posted on the NIH Stem Cell web site at

III. Letter of Intent for Stem Cell Program Project

Dr. Tasca announced that NICHD received a Letter of Intent and then the subsequent grant application requesting NIH funding for a research project that will use human embryonic stem cells. Prior to accepting the application, NICHD is inquiring if other ICs would consider cosponsoring the grant because the proposed funding request for this application is quite large. The Task Force agreed that the proposal has unique concepts that has trans-NIH relevance and also involves unique collaborations between several universities. The Task Force recommended that the proposal be forwarded to the NIH Stem Cell Implementation Committee to solicit interest in cosponsoring the application.

IV. Review and Discussion of Stem Cell Task Force Working Groups Suggestions

In establishing a research agenda for stem cell research, the Task Force convened five working groups which met over the past year. The working groups were comprised of federal and non-federal experts who offered a multitude of suggestions that may help move the human embryonic stem cell research agenda forward. The five working groups met to discuss the following topics: Career Pathways, Resource Access, Peer Review, Supporting Technologies/Research Tools, and Stem Cell Scientific Progress and Outreach. Upon reviewing the working group suggestions, the Task Force discussed each suggestion and considered which suggestion could be forward to the NIH Stem Cell Implementation Committee for further consideration and possible implementation. Highlights of the Task Force's discussions on each of the working groups are as follows:

Career Pathways Working Group

  • In reviewing the suggestions made by this working group, the Task Force concluded that NIH is adequately implementing or planning initiatives to execute the ideas put forth by this working group.

Resource Access Working Group

  • NIH has decided not to serve as a stem cell repository at this time because this would be at odds with the efforts made by the NIH infrastructure grants awarded to stem cell providers.
  • A stem cell characterization unit has been established within NINDS's intramural research program.
  • NIH plans to convene an annual meeting of the Principle Investigators of Infrastructure grants, as well as the PIs of the short-term training courses. An NIH stem cell research symposium, similar to the one held last June, does not need to be held annually.
  • To facilitate the international exchange of stem cell research, NIH participates on an international forum sponsored by the Medical Research Council, United Kingdom. NIH can foster international stem cell collaborations by offering training to foreign researchers wishing to be Visiting Scientist at NIH intramural laboratories.
  • The high cost of purchasing human embryonic stem cells (average $5,000 per vial) is a major concern to scientists wishing to conduct research in this field. The Task Force discussed ways that NIH may be able to help reduce the cost of these cells for NIH-supported scientists. Possible ways to reduce the cost of hESCs is to have scale-up techniques perfected, or award administrative supplement grants to the stem cell providers or to NIH-supported scientists wishing to purchase the cells (but criteria will need to be established to determine who would be eligible to receive the supplements).
  • Explore ways to reduce the length of time between date of receipt of R01 applications and award, especially in the stage of second level (advisory council) review. Dr. Hammond suggested the use of an expedited receipt-to-award process that is currently being used by NIDDK and other ICs.

Peer Review Working Group

  • Continued orientation of scientific review administrators is needed with respect to issues unique to hESC grant applications (e.g., the state of the science and difficulty in providing preliminary data at the time of initial application).
  • Not every IC has a representative on the NIH Stem Cell Implementation Committee. Increasing membership will offer the possibility of making secondary assignments if the primary IC is unable to fund a particular stem cell grant application. Providing the Implementation Committee with a list of hESC grant applications from IMPAC II for each round of reviews will be helpful.

Supporting Technologies/Research Tools Working Group

  • Determine if eligible stem cell providers are providing verification of quality control measures with each shipment of their cells.
  • Explore if there is a need for a source of differentiated hESCs for research.
  • Determine if there is further need for NIH to offer administrative supplements to enable NIH-supported scientists to incorporate hESCs into their established research project. Some ICs are not planning to announce future administrative supplements because the number of supplement applications have declined.

Because of time constraints, the Task Force decided to continue discussing the suggestion made by the Supporting Technologies/Research Tools Working Group at the next meeting.

The next meeting of the Stem Cell Task Force is tentatively scheduled for January 6, 2004, 9:00–11:00 a.m., in 31/3C-05.

V. Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 11:00 a.m.

If you have questions about the Task Force, please contact:

Science Policy and Planning Branch
National Institute on Deafness
and Other Communication Disorders, NIH
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: (301) 402-2313
Fax: (301) 402-2265