Klein, Penhoet Elected To Head Stem Cell Panel
The Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, which is charged with determining how to distribute funds for stem cell research available through Proposition 71, on Friday voted Proposition 71 campaign Chair Robert Klein and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation President Edward Penhoet to serve as the panel's chair and vice chair, respectively, the Los Angeles Times reports (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 12/18).
Proposition 71, a measure approved on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, calls for California to issue bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote stem cell research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center, as well as grants and loans for lab projects. State analysts say the measure will cost a total of $6 billion, including interest.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D), Controller Steve Westly (D) and Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) last week nominated Klein, a Portola Valley real estate developer, to chair the oversight committee.
Schwarzenegger and Westly last week nominated Penhoet, founder of biotechnology firms Chiron and Renovis, as vice chair. Bustamante nominated Frank Staggers, a Castro Valley urologist and former president of the California Medical Association and the National Medical Association, as vice chair, and Angelides nominated Joan Samuelson, president and founder of the Parkinson's Action Network (California Healthline,12/15).
The oversight committee unanimously chose Klein, the only nominee for chair, and Penhoet received 21 of a possible 25 votes for vice chair, according to the AP/Baltimore Sun.
The panel's "only formal actions" were to elect the oversight committee's chair and vice chair (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/19).
Angelides and Westly on Thursday made last-minute changes to the agenda of the inaugural meeting of the panel because critics said the session violated state open-meeting laws. After several citizens filed complaints, Angelides and Westly, who were responsible for scheduling the session, recommended that the agenda be limited to electing a chair and vice chair because such action is permitted at a "special meeting" that is not subject to the same public notice requirements.
Because the original 15-item meeting agenda was released four days prior to the meeting and state law typically requires 10 days advanced notice, state officials said that the inclusion of some items on the agenda violated the law (California Healthline, 12/17).
Despite the limited agenda, Charles Halpern, a public interest lawyer who filed the initial complaint, said the meeting still violated open-meeting laws because the public was not given sufficient information about the three candidates for vice chair. He said that he might file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the committee's vote (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/19).
David Baltimore, a member of the panel and president of the California Institute of Technology, said, "I've had the opportunity to work with Mr. Klein in making the proposition responsive to the needs of institutions and the scientific community. I find him to be a man who can integrate specialized knowledge well."
After the meeting Friday, Klein said he would reconvene the board as early as the first week in January to discuss the items that were removed from the first meeting's agenda. Klein added that the agency would hire a president, after a national search, to serve as CEO and principal scientific adviser.
Penhoet, who holds "significant amounts" of biotech stock and sits on the board of "numerous biotech companies, said none of the firms are engaged in stem cell research and pledged to resign from the oversight committee or place his holdings in a blind trust if that situation changed, according to the Times.
Penhoet added that he would continue to serve as president of the Moore Foundation (Los Angeles Times, 12/18).
Summaries of other recent articles related to Proposition 71 appear below.
Baltimore Sun: Two Maryland lawmakers are proposing legislation to allocate $25 million annually for state scientists to pursue stem cell research because they are "[f]earful" Proposition 71 will "sap Maryland's biotech industry," according to the Sun (Green, Baltimore Sun, 12/19).
Boston Globe: Although the "gold rush" of nationwide stem cell scientists to California "is a trickle now," California already had the "lion's share" on U.S. biotech companies and "interest from other out-of-state companies probably will pick up after the New Year -- once the [California Institute of Regenerative Medicine] is up and running," according to Mary Tsay, vice president of the Palo Alto office of Cresa Partners, the Boston Globe reports (Caina Calvan, Boston Globe, 12/19).
Christian Science Monitor: California is the first state to ever attempt "a scientific venture" of the "magnitude and complexity" of Proposition 71, and although other states have "rush[ed] to counter California's massive investment by setting aside stem cell money of their own," the state will "most clearly delineate the promises and perils of stem cell science for the rest of the nation, showing the limits of federalism by its success or its failure," according to the Monitor (Sappenfield, Christian Science Monitor, 12/20).
New York Times: Stem cells "have been held out as a quick fix to anything that ails the mind or body," but "other technologies offer signs of success by exploiting the body's own abilities, in particular the regenerative powers of the nervous system and muscles," according to the Times (Horgan, New York Times, 12/19).
San Diego Union-Tribune: The Union-Tribune notes that Proposition 71 was conceived of two years ago last weekend, as the product of a dinner meeting in Sacramento between state Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D) and a group of scientists (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/19).
Several broadcast programs reported on the stem cell panel's first meeting:
- KPCC's "KPCC News": The segment includes an interview with Samuelson, panel member, attorney and Parkinson's disease patient (Julian, "KPCC News," KPCC, 12/16). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "The California Report": The segment includes comments from Angelides; Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society; Klein; and Westly (Peterson, "The California Report, KQED, 12/17). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "The California Report": The segment includes comments from Ortiz (Shafer, "The California Report, KQED, 12/17). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.