Ortiz Introduces Legislation Addressing Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research
As expected, Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) on Monday introduced a bill (SB 18) that would modify provisions of Proposition 71, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/7).
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 (California Healthline, 12/6).
Ortiz's bill would establish regulations for ensuring the repayment of the state's investment; broad financial disclosure requirements; standards for the oversight committee and other groups regarding conflicts of interest; public meetings; protections for women considering donating eggs for research; and affordability requirements for stem cell therapies (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/7).
Ortiz said that guidelines similar to those in her legislation could be set by the oversight committee. However, she felt "personally responsible to guarantee high standards are enacted," according to the Los Angeles Times (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 12/7).
Ortiz said, "California voters not only have entrusted us with their hopes for cures, they have also entrusted us to protect their pocketbooks," adding, "It is essential that we honor and uphold that responsibility by ensuring only the highest standards are put in place for implementing this important initiative."
Robert Klein, Proposition 71 campaign chair, said, "The senator is aware that the people of California specifically voted to put their faith in the independent citizens' oversight committee (which is being appointed by top state officials) to decide how the taxpayers' investment will be spent."
In related news, a two-day stem cell research workshop that began on Monday at the University of California-Irvine offered advice for the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, which will oversee allocation of Proposition 71 funding, the Union-Tribune reports.
Discussion at the workshop, which was organized by the National Academy of Science, included ethical considerations, requirements for grant applications, standards for avoiding conflicts of interest and protections for intellectual property developed through a state-funded program.
The oversight committee -- which will meet for the first time on Dec. 17 at the University of California-San Francisco, officials announced Monday -- will receive information from the workshop, as well as transcripts from public hearings that will take place around the state in coming months.
The workshop was attended by "a variety of people interested in the stem cell effort," according to the Union-Tribune (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/7). Five of the 10 named oversight committee members attended the workshop, and one additional member is expected to attend Tuesday (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 12/7).
The oversight committee will use advice from the workshop as "the template" for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which will house the panel, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Officials likely will use many established procedures of NIH, the UC system, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and other large foundations involved in peer review, intellectual property rights and public accountability (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7).
At the start of the workshop, Klein said the oversight committee could make its first grant awards by the end of May. Such timing would be "a quick turnaround for such a complex undertaking," according to the Bee.
Claire Pomeroy, a member of the oversight committee, said Klein's estimate is "very ambitious."
Edward Holmes, also a member of the panel, said, "We can only realize the promise of (stem cell research) if we start moving quickly" (Sacramento Bee, 12/7).
The British Consulate has organized two symposiums, which will take place this week, aimed at strengthening ties between stem cell scientists in Great Britain and California, the Sacramento Bee reports. One of the meetings, which were planned before Proposition 71 was approved, was scheduled to take place in San Francisco on Monday and the other will take place in Los Angeles on Friday.
Sharima Rasanayagam, Britain's science and technology consul in San Francisco, said British scientists can make more rapid progress by collaborating with foreign researchers who have access to funding and vice versa.
"It worked out fantastically," Rasanayagam said, adding, "We planned California because we knew there was a lot of good research going on here. If (the proposition) passed, it was brilliant. Even if it didn't pass, it was still a valid thing to do" (Lau, Sacramento Bee, 12/6).
San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area both are "vying to become the home of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine," the administrative office created by Proposition 71 that will house the ICOC, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Supporters for biotechnology companies in both regions, which united to campaign for the passage of Proposition 71, have begun lobbying the committee -- which has not been fully formed and is scheduled to meet for the first time later this month -- to build the institute among their "cluster," or concentration of companies and research institutions, according to the Union-Tribune.
Jean Loring, a stem cell researcher at the Burnham Institute, said lobbying efforts for the institute are "like a carpetbagger gold rush," adding, "People are coming out of the woodwork who we've never seen before (and saying they) want to build a building so that they can study stem cells."
The area that ultimately is chosen will gain "prestige," according to the Union-Tribune. Several oversight committee members said the location of the institute should not affect distribution of research funds (Somers, San Diego-Union Tribune, 12/5).
Summaries of recent opinion pieces addressing Proposition 71 appear below.
- Joe Panetta, San Diego Union-Tribune: San Diego scientists "are well positioned to compete" for the funding provided under Proposition 71, and "there is now no doubt that more ... venture dollars will flow into San Diego" in part because of the initiative's approval, Joe Panetta, president and CEO of BIOCOM, writes in a Union-Tribune opinion piece. The city is a "densely concentrated area of life science research" and "the heart of the region's vibrant biotech and medical device industry," and as a result, San Diego residents "should enjoy the benefit of a substantial portion of the grant funding," Panetta writes (Panetta, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/5).
- Evan Snyder/Jeanne Loring, San Diego Union-Tribune: Proposition 71 "represents a major cultural shift in viewing how a branch of medical research may be advanced; a state declares priority for its citizens and assumes a role normally filled by the federal government but on a topic eschewed by the national government," Evan Snyder, a Burnham Institute professor and director of the Program in Stem Cells and Regeneration, and Jeanne Loring, an adjunct professor at the institute and principal in Arcgen, a stem cell consulting firm, write in a Union-Tribune opinion piece. Although stem cell research "is among the most exciting scientific developments in the last half-century," it is scientists' responsibility "that the road to the clinic is traveled carefully -- not simply expeditiously," Snyder and Loring write (Snyder/Loring, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/5).
- Roger Pedersen/Julia Polak, San Francisco Chronicle: The "contentious campaign" to approve Proposition 71 "was seen as a symbol of the clash between socially liberal California and the conservative Bush administration," Cambridge Stem Cell Institute researcher Roger Pedersen and Julia Polak, director of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Center at Imperial College in London, write in a Chronicle opinion piece. According to the authors, U.S. researchers should follow the example of those in the United Kingdom, "where ethics are not considered absolute" and "the country has found a way of balancing the benefits against the risk." Proposition 71 has helped establish the state as "the U.S. center of stem cell research" and discussions between U.K. and California researchers at meetings this week are "a good first step for ongoing collaborations between the United Kingdom and California," Pedersen and Polak write (Pedersen/Polak, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/6).
KPBS' "KPBS News" on Monday reported on Ortiz's introduction of the legislation (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 12/6). The complete transcript of the segment is available online. 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.