Challenge to Stem Cell Research Agency Hits Appeals Court
A three-judge panel in a state appeals court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case questioning the constitutionality of the state's stem cell agency, the San Diego-Union Tribune reports (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/15).
California voters in 2004 approved Proposition 71 to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and provide $3 billion in taxpayer funding over 10 years for stem cell research (California Healthline, 1/10). The funding primarily was intended to finance stem cell research, such as human embryonic stem cell research, for which federal funds are restricted.
The California Family Bioethics Council and the People's Advocate are appealing an April 2006 ruling in an Alameda Superior Court that found that the agency's $3 billion in taxpayer funding was constitutional and that the agency was legal and accountable to the public.
The plaintiffs in 2005 filed suit to challenge the measure's constitutionality because state elected officials do not have direct control over how the $3 billion could be spent (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/15).
A lawyer representing the Bioethics Council on Wednesday argued that the stem cell agency's board includes officials from universities that could benefit from research grants. However, Justice Stuart Pollak said Proposition 71 prohibits board members from voting on grants to their own institutions.
The lawyer also claimed that Proposition 71 violated the state's "single subject" law for ballot initiatives because the measure contains more provisions than only stem cell funding (Elias, AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 2/14).
However, Justice Peter Siggins said multiple elements of the legislation all were focused on advancing the quest for stem cell therapies (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/15).
The state has not issued bonds through the program while the lawsuit is pending. The court has 90 days to issue its ruling but is expected to issue a ruling sooner, according to the Los Angeles Times. The plaintiffs said they would appeal to the California Supreme Court (Los Angeles Times, 2/15).
A two-day Stem Cell Summit was held in San Diego this week for stem cell companies, scientists and investors to learn more about stem cell therapies that are being marketed already and others that are in development stages, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Tom Baker -- a spokesperson for San Diego-based Cytori Therapeutics, a stem cell company that sponsored the summit -- said the event focused on helping participants differentiate between the progress in adult stem cell research and human embryonic stem cell research, which is in developmental stages and is farther from marketable products. Adult stem cells are culled from bone marrow, blood and fat.
Baker said adult stem cell research is more advanced and has produced therapies that are closer to marketable products, including therapies that his company is developing that pull adult stem cells from fat for reconstructive surgery or cardiac problems (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/14).