California’s stem-cell research institute, still hamstrung by lawsuits that have held up its $3 billion funding for more than a year, announced Monday it has finally begun issuing the first trickle of grants.

Even though the stem-cell institute’s research has been delayed because of the lawsuits, Zach Hall, the institute’s president, said being able to issue its first grants to train stem-cell scientists was an important milestone for the agency.

Supporters of the institute are planning a May 22 black-tie fundraiser that boasts the involvement of such luminaries as U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Gordon Getty and venture capitalist John Doerr.

The $12.1 million in grants the agency announced on last Monday it has handed out are intended to help train 169 students at 16 California universities and other non-profit institutions in the fundamentals of stem-cell biology. Several Bay Area institutions were among those receiving training grants, including students at Stanford University, the University of California-San Francisco, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Santa Cruz and the J. Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco.Link []