Biotech Executives Discuss Stem Cell Concerns
Biotechnology company executives met Tuesday to begin working with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week announced a $150 million loan to the agency, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 7/26). The meeting was part of a six-month process to formulate a scientific strategy for CIRM (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 7/26).
Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 71 have prevented funds from being released. State voters approved the proposition in 2004 to provide $3 billion over 10 years for stem cell research. The lawsuits are pending in an appellate court.
According to the Mercury News, some executives "said uncertainty about how the institute will operate has them nervous about getting involved."
CIRM officials are considering whether to require companies to share revenue with the state from discoveries made using Proposition 71 funds. Some executives said forcing companies to share profits could discourage them from seeking grants.
In addition, Ann Hanham, managing director of Burrill & Company, said the high costs and risks involved with stem cell research could make it harder for biotech companies to obtain funding from venture capital firms, which generally expect a return on investments within five to seven years.
However, some executives at the meeting voiced support for Proposition 71 and offered suggestions on how funds could be utilized.
Bruce Cohen, CEO of Cellerant Therapeutics, recommended that the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, which administers CIRM, use Proposition 71 bonds to secure additional private capital for stem cell research (San Jose Mercury News, 7/26).
Other executives said that Proposition 71 funds should be used to develop a library of stem cells that researchers worldwide could access, the Tribune reports (Oakland Tribune, 7/26).