Sacramento Bee Looks at Stem Cell Board Members’ Biotech Interests
The Sacramento Bee on Friday examined issues involving members of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, the board created by Proposition 71, who recently disclosed financial interests, as required by the ballot measure.
Ten of the 29 board members serve on biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies' boards of directors or have extensive financial interests in those industries, the Bee reports.
Board Chair Robert Klein said that Proposition 71 prohibits board members from voting on measures that affect their private interests and from holding financial interests in companies financed by public stem cell funds. He added that board members with experience and financial interests in biotechnology have the "essential knowledge for us to take this applied science and get therapies to patients"
Board Vice Chair Edward Penhoet, who holds at least $3.36 million in stocks and stock options in biotech firms, said, "On that basis, you can disqualify everybody on the board. You can say it's good for the state, and if you live here, you can benefit from it."
But Jamie Court, director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said that ICOC members "need to divest from the market," adding, "If there are conflicts, there are always going to be questions about whether this research is being done for the public's interest or the pecuniary interests of those serving on the board."
Deborah Burger, president of the California Nurses Association, said that even though the initiative requires that all state funds go to public or not-for-profit institutes, the board is allowed to fund other types of research that could benefit members' investments (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 1/21).
- Prieto, Sacramento Bee: "Critics have implied that our eagerness to fund research will lead us to ignore standards and brush aside ethical concerns," ICOC member Francisco Prieto writes in a Bee opinion piece. Prieto adds that standards must be in place before any grants are awarded, and he asserts the board's conflict of interest and ethical standards will "exceed those used by [NIH]" (Prieto, Sacramento Bee, 1/21).
San Jose Mercury News: California's investment in stem-cell research will equal "roughly a third of what the federal government budgets for all biotech research each year," a Mercury News editorial states. The editorial states that President Bush should reconsider his position on stem cell research, but it also states that with so many states "falling all over themselves trying to keep up with Californians," the "danger is that an inordinate amount of money will be designated across the nation for stem cell research at the expense of other worthy biotech investments" (San Jose Mercury News, 1/21).
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