Despite ongoing legal controversy over the constitutionality of its mandate, the $3 billion California stem cell initiative has decided to award its first set of grants totaling almost $40 million.

"I think it makes a strong statement that we are going forward, and will not be stopped," Dennis Clegg, chair of the department of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a grant recipient, told The Scientist. "The voters of this state voted for this proposition," he added. "It's really the will of the people to move forward on this."

The first set of grants, announced Friday, was distributed among 16 California institutions, and designed to create a 3-year stem cell training program for predoctoral, postdoctoral, and clinical fellows.

However, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, is currently fighting legal challenges to the constitutionality of the referendum. As a result of these...

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