Opinions Address Stem Cell Institute Challenges
Two newspapers on Wednesday published an editorial and an opinion piece addressing the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Proposition 71 funding. The proposition was approved by voters in November 2004 to fund stem cell research. Summaries appear below.
Proposition 71 was written to prevent state lawmakers from revising the law for three years "specifically to prevent the program from becoming embroiled in politics," a Contra Costa Times editorial says. Although there are conflict-of-interest concerns, CIRM "operates like other state boards that recommend funding for specific projects," the editorial adds, asking, "Who better to make research-funding decisions than those who are knowledgeable about stem cell science?" (Contra Costa Times, 4/12).
CIRM now "faces an entirely new and potentially even more worrisome challenge arising from two powerful patents" held by a foundation affiliated with the University of Wisconsin that "cover all human embryonic stem cells and the method by which they're made," Jennifer Washburn, an author and fellow at the New America Foundation, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.
Washburn writes, "This monopoly doesn't just threaten the future of stem cell research," but "[i]t also raises a fundamental question: Should the U.S. Patent Office allow the basic building blocks of science to be patented?" Congress "needs to act now to reform" the patent system, according to Washburn (Washburn, Los Angeles Times, 4/12).