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January 10, 2003, Summary

NIH Stem Cell Task Force

Members Present:

James Battey, NIDCD, (Chair), Arlene Chiu, NINDS, Della Hann, OD/OER, Pam Robey, NIDCR, Allen Spiegel, NIDDK, Richard Tasca, NICHD, John Thomas, NHLBI, Judith Vaitukaitis, NCRR

Other Participants:

Laura Cole, NIDDK, John Connaughton, NIDDK, Tom Johnson, OD/OSP, Belinda Seto, OD/OER, Anne White-Olson, NIDCD, Baldwin Wong, NIDCD

I. Welcome

Dr. Battey welcomed the members to the third meeting of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force and thanked them for their time commitment.

II. Approval of November 6 Meeting Minutes

The Task Force approved the minutes of the November 6, 2002, meeting after an addition by Dr. Pam Robey in Section IV on chimeras. The summary is posted on the Stem Cell Task Force Web site at

III. Follow-Up Issues from Previous Task Force Meeting

  1. Discussion of T15 Training Grant Program for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Culture Techniques. John Thomas provided the Task Force with an update on the review of the T15 Training grant applications that were received under PA-02-054, for short-term training courses in human embryonic stem cell (hESC) culture techniques. Following two receipt dates, five applications were received. The Center for Scientific Review recently issued the summary statements for these five applications. Eleven participating ICs and the Food and Drug Administration have committed up to $1 million/year for this 3-year program. It is estimated that funding the five sites will require approximately $700,000/year. Although the five sites propose to develop and conduct different short-term training courses, participants will learn how to grow hESCs at all sites. Dr. Thomas will brief the upcoming NHLBI Advisory Council about the outcome of the review and solicited the advice of the Task Force on the concept of the grants.

    • The Task Force had the following concerns about the courses:

    • It would be important to track those who register for each course and if an individual registers for multiple courses.
    • NIH can offer to announce the courses and disseminate course material on the Task Force Web site. NIH intramural scientists are eligible to register for any of the courses.
    • Will participants at all the courses be required to sign an MTA before attending the course?
    • Since this is a new program and the demand for courses is unknown, there were questions about the number of participants that would register.
    • The Task Force is pleased with the wide diversity of geographic locations of the 5 sites.
    • The Task Force made the following suggestions concerning the courses:

    • Future funding at each site should be contingent upon quantity of enrollees and quality of training. Annual progress reports should provide this information.
    • The Task Force suggested a meeting of the Principal Investigators from each site to discuss and compare "best practices."
    • Course should include a post-training evaluation to determine if participants are successful in working with the cells on their own after completing the course. (This would be dependent on whether the participant's home lab is equipped to conduct hESC research).
    • Prior to initiating the program, convene a meeting or teleconference of the Principal Investigators from each site to relay the above expectations to them.
    • For consistency and ease of coordination, the Task Force suggested that one IC serve as the administrator for all 5 grants.
    • Force suggested that all 5 grants be funded.
  2. NIH Stem Cell Initiatives Related to Career Pathways Working Group Suggestions After requesting examples of ongoing or planned initiatives from the NIH Stem Cell Implementation Committee, it was determined that many of the suggestions suggested by the Career Pathways Working Group are being addressed or are in the process of being addressed.

IV. Discussion of Research Access Working Group Suggestions

The Stem Cell Research Resource Access Working Group met on December 10, 2002, to assist the Task Force by developing suggestions on ways to facilitate the access of hESC lines (eligible for Federal funding) to researchers worldwide. The meeting included a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of NIH serving as a stem cell repository and the current status of NIH Infrastructure awards to hESC providers. The working group suggested full support for establishing a stem cell characterization unit at the NIH, that the NIH develop better communication resources through the Internet or by workshops on hESCs, develop long-term plans for the support of Infrastructure awards, and the need for stem cell research training and career development.

V. NIH Stem Cell Symposium, June 12, 2003

NIH will be hosting a stem cell symposium on June 12. The idea for the symposium was the result of a meeting between Dr. Zerhouni and the leadership of the American Society for Cell Biology, which asked NIH to showcase its hESC research. The morning session of the symposium will include a plenary session consisting of presentations by extramural and intramural scientists. The afternoon will include workshops and poster sessions. Dr. Zerhouni has been invited to give remarks at the plenary session; his remarks are to be delivered at around 11 AM.

A symposium planning subcommittee has been formed from members of the NIH Stem Cell Implementation Committee. The NIH hESC investigator-initiated award and the administrative supplement grantees will be specifically invited to participate in the symposium. The scientific program officers from the ICs supporting these grants have been asked to contact the grantees about making oral or poster presentations. The topics for the panel discussion will be centered around the same themes used in Dr. Zerhouni's testimony before Congress in September 2002, which are: Building Scientific Capacity of Researchers (training and career pathways), Providing Long Term Stability of Cells (cell characterization, genetic stability), Understanding Cell Specialization (growth factors, gene regulation), Understanding Cell Cycle Control (regulation/control of cell division), and Evaluation Cell-Host Interactions (immunology, transplantation biology).

On June 8–11, the International Society for Stem Cell Research will have their first annual meeting in Washington, D.C. On June 13, NCRR and NIDDK will host a meeting of their stem cell infrastructure awardees.

VI. Peer Review of Stem Cell Science Working Group Meeting

Dr. Battey announced that the Peer Review of Stem Cell Science Working Group will meet on February 20. The meeting discussions will focus on the status of stem cell grant applications and whether a special emphasis review group needs to be established at the NIH to review stem cell applications. The current success rate for stem cell applications seems to be fairly similar to the NIH average success rate. At present, there are reviewers with developmental biology expertise in four CSR study sections. Dr. Vaitukaitis announced that an NCRR study section is also utilizing reviewers with expertise in stem cell biology. Most animal based-applications are assigned to the NCRR study section, some go to CSR review committee, and others get assigned to the relevant IC.

VII. Presentation by Athersys at March Meeting

Following a presentation made to him last year, Dr. Battey invited Athersys to present at the next Task Force meeting. Athersys is a biotech company which is collaborating with Catherine Verfaillie at the University of Minnesota on her research on multipotent adult progenitor cells from bone marrow.

VIII. Update on NIH Stem Cell Characterization Unit

Dr. Battey provided an update on the status of the NIH Characterization Unit being developed within its intramural laboratories. Dr. Ron McKay, NINDS, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Unit. The mission of the Unit is to provide standardized data from assays performed on the same hESC lines that are available to be shipped to the research community. Results of the assays will be posted on the Internet. The Unit will not serve as a stem cell repository and will be overseen by a steering committee comprised of leading stem cell scientists. Dr. Zerhouni has committed the resources for equipment and laboratory space, and the operating budget will come from the intramural budgets of the NIH ICs following a "school tax" model. In the future, the Unit may conduct comparisons on other types of stem cells.

IX. Identification of Issues for Task Force Consideration
Dr. Thomas announced that he was invited to a stem cell symposium in Seoul, Korea this May.

Dr. Arlene Chiu announced that Swedish scientists are planning an International Conference on basic and applied research in stem cells, which will be held in Sweden in September. NINDS and NIMH are planning to hold a satellite conference to coincide with this meeting so that US scientists can discuss potential collaborations with their counterparts abroad and how such international collaborations can be implemented.

X. Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 3:10 p.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