Proposition 71 Oversight Committee To Meet This Week To Confirm Chair, Vice Chair Nominees
Members of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, which will govern the new California Institute for Regenerative Medicine established under Proposition 71, will meet Friday to confirm a chair and vice chair, the Los Angeles Times reports (Garvey, Los Angles Times, 12/11).
Proposition 71, a ballot measure approved by state voters in November, calls for California to issue bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over 10 years to promote stem cell research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects. State analysts estimate that with interest, the measure will cost a total of $6 billion (California Healthline, 12/8).
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) on Friday appointed Jonathan Shestack, founder of advocacy group Cure Autism Now, to an eight-year term on the committee. Nunez on Friday also appointed John Hein, executive director of Communities for Quality Education, to the financial oversight committee for the stem cell research program (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 12/11). In addition, Controller Steve Westly (D) has appointed Sherry Lansing, head of Paramount Pictures and chair of Stop Cancer, to the committee (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 12/10).
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D), Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) and Westly plan to announce additional appointments to the committee on Monday.
The governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer and controller must nominate the chair and vice chair of the committee, and the other 27 committee members must vote to confirm them.
Under Proposition 71, the chair and vice chair will serve as the only full- or part-time paid employees on the committee (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/12). The measure requires the committee chair to live in California, have experience as an advocate for research on specific diseases, have a legal background and have experience in bond finance.
However, the measure does not require the committee chair to have a background in science or experience in grant administration. Individuals employed by institutions eligible to receive grants under the measure cannot serve as the committee chair.
Many experts expect Bob Klein, a real estate developer and stem cell research advocate, to receive the nomination for committee chair. Klein helped draft Proposition 71 and contributed more than $3 million to the campaign in support of the measure. According to the Times, Klein "is widely respected among advocates for embryonic stem cell research." Klein has said that he would accept the nomination for committee chair but at some point would "get back to making a living" (Los Angeles Times, 12/11).
Michael Friedman, a former cancer specialist at the University of California-San Francisco who currently serves as CEO of the City of Hope National Medical Center, and Richard Atkinson, a former University of California president and UC-San Diego faculty member, also are potential nominees for committee chair, although neither has publicly confirmed interest in the position, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/12).
The committee chair nomination process has prompted an "intense behind-the-scenes debate," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 12/11). Some committee members favor a competitive process for nomination of the chair, "rather than automatically backing the man considered to be the likely candidate for the job," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Jeff Sheehy, spokesperson for the UCSF AIDS Research Institute whom Senate Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) named to the committee to represent HIV/AIDS interests, has said that members should have the ability to select from several potential chairs at the meeting on Friday. Sheehy also said that the committee must "be very cautious here at the beginning" and "put in place a fair and open process."
He added, "Everybody's going to have issues around the ethics of this. This technology has the capability to transform mankind if we're open and democratic about how we proceed. But it would be wrong to just crank up a new technology, turn it over to private industry and see what happens. That's not what the voters wanted" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/12).
California voters' passage of Proposition 71 "brought the stem cell debate to a screeching halt" because the results of the election ensure that there "will now be ample public funding for that research," David Magnus, director of the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics, and Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, write in a San Jose Mercury News opinion piece, adding that the "debate still taking place in Washington has little relevance for the issues that embryonic stem cell research now faces."
Magnus and Caplan write that an "open, transparent regulatory framework" is needed to facilitate stem cell research, concluding that "the debate on stem cell research must focus on making sure that this research is done following the highest ethical standards" (Magnus/Caplan, San Jose Mercury News, 12/13).