Panel To Consider State Constitutional Amendment Addressing Stem Cell Research Institute
The state constitutional amendment panel on Wednesday is expected to vote on an amendment (SCA 13) that would modify provisions of Proposition 71, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The amendment, by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), would require the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee to comply with conflict-of-interest provisions similar to those approved this year by NIH (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 5/18).
The Senate Health Committee last month approved the amendment, which would apply state open meeting and record laws to CIRM and ICOC. In addition, research grants would include provisions for possible state royalties (California Healthline, 4/21). Under the amendment, ICOC members would be required to divest their holdings in firms that conduct stem cell research or perform other biomedical work.
ICOC recently adopted a conflict-of-interest policy for board members that is less restrictive than the policy approved for CIRM staff. ICOC members can currently hold investments in companies conducting stem cell research, but they cannot discuss or vote in matters in which they have a personal interest.
ICOC Chair Robert Klein said some board members could quit if the amendment is approved.
David Baltimore, president of the California Institute of Technology and an ICOC member, said, "Trying to bar potentially 'conflicted' experts from panels where their expertise is needed can be counterproductive." Baltimore is on the board of Amgen, a California biotechnology firm, and owns stock in the company, which conducts stem cell research.
Baltimore added that NIH's regulations "have gone much too far. It is the worst possible model for California."
Brian Henderson, dean of the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and an ICOC member, said he would be willing to divest his stock in Genentech and Medtronic, two companies that conduct stem cell research. "If they are doing that, then I must divest," he said, adding, "I prefer a long distance from any company that does stem cell therapy."
Paul Kincade, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, said, "There is nothing more precious to a scientist than credibility. If you lose that, you lose everything" (San Jose Mercury News, 5/18).
CIRM on Friday issued a call for grant applications from programs to instruct students how to conduct stem cell research, the San Francisco Examiner reports. ICOC on May 6 approved about $45 million a year in training grants.
There eventually will be three types of training programs that will be located at universities and not-for-profit organizations. ICOC hopes to begin approving proposals by fall 2005 (Lagos, San Francisco Examiner, 5/17).
"Continue to scrutinize our every move, hold us to the highest standards, but allow us to move urgently toward the cures that are so tantalizingly close," Joan Samuelson, David Serrano Sewell and Jeff Sheehy -- three of the 10 patient advocates who are ICOC members -- write in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. Scientists who are ICOC members "are willing to expend great effort to assist us in the thankless and laborious process of reviewing and scoring grants," and they do so "at the expense of their own research -- they cannot apply for grants from the institute," the ICOC members write.
The ICOC members add that all funding decisions "will take place in public" and that "[a]ll recommendations made by the working groups are advisory and must be ratified in public meetings." Samuelson, Serrano Sewell and Sheehy write that "constructive criticism does not seek headlines at the expense of sound policy."
Samuelson was appointed to ICOC as the advocate for Californians with Parkinson's Disease, Serrano Sewell as advocate for Californians with Multiple Sclerosis and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Sheehy as advocate for Californians with HIV/AIDS (Samuelson, et al., San Francisco Chronicle, 5/18).
KQED's "Forum" on Tuesday included a panel discussion on the environmental, economic and scientific opportunities created by CIRM for the state and the San Francisco region. Guests on the program included Mark Calvey, senior reporter with the San Francisco Business Times; Zach Hall, interim president of CIRM; Klein; and Lisa Krieger, life sciences reporter for the Mercury News (Krasny, "Forum," KQED, 5/17). 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.