San Francisco Leads Competition for Stem Cell Institute Headquarters After Site Visits
San Francisco continued to lead the competition to host the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine on Monday, despite a third-place ranking by CIRM's site-selection subcommittee in the on-site component of the evaluation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Although "a chance of an upset" still exists, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee likely will agree to the eight-member subcommittee's recommendation when it meets on Friday to decide a permanent location for the stem cell institute, the Chronicle reports (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/3).
The subcommittee was expected to advance only two proposals to ICOC, but subcommittee members decided to advance three because Sacramento and San Diego's scores were within seven-tenths of one point. San Francisco led overall scoring with 222.75 points, followed by Sacramento with 200.5 and San Diego with 199.8. Emeryville finished fourth with 171.7 points (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/3).
The three cities on Friday will each make a final 10-minute presentation to the 29-member ICOC (Sahagun, Los Angeles Times, 5/3). ICOC could choose to ignore the subcommittee's recommendation (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 5/3).
San Diego led the on-site component of the competition with an average of 72.8 points, ahead of Sacramento with 65.5 points and San Francisco with 64.75 points.
The subcommittee on Friday "appeared to have reservations" when it visited the San Francisco site, which is across the street from the city's baseball stadium and on a floor above a Borders bookstore, according to the Union-Tribune.
Responding to criticism that the proposed site in San Francisco is too far from biomedical facilities, ICOC Chair Robert Klein said, "I don't see the difference of being a 15-minute drive or walking several blocks to a (research) facility." Klein added, "In most cases, people believe a transit time of 15 to 20 minutes is highly acceptable" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/3).
Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo (D) and Tom Zeidner, Sacramento's senior economic development project manager, "pointed out that one of the San Diego subcommittee members gave his hometown 45 more points than Sacramento out of a possible 90 points" in the on-site competition, the Bee reports. The other member from San Diego gave his own city 28 more points than Sacramento.
"Some regionalism was certainly present," Zeidner said.
Claire Pomeroy, the only subcommittee member from Sacramento, ranked San Diego two points higher than Sacramento (Sacramento Bee, 5/3).
The San Francisco proposal includes $11 million in private-sector contributions, including 43,000 square feet of lab space for research and $900,000 in free and discounted hotel rooms annually.
Sacramento is offering 16,000 square feet of rent-free downtown property about four miles from UC-Davis Medical Center and 150 yards from the state Capitol. "City officials also point out that home prices in Sacramento are half those in the Bay Area," the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 5/3).
Klein, discussing Sacramento's proposed location for CIRM headquarters, said, "As someone in real estate, this is the finest building of the four" (Sacramento Bee, 5/3).
San Diego's proposal includes 17,000 square feet of rent-free office space near one of the highest concentrations of biomedical firms in the nation, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 5/3). However, the San Diego proposal has "no comparable offer [to San Francisco] on hotels and lab space," the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/3).
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) said he was "pleased" with the subcommittee's recommendation but "surprised by the scores." Newsom said, "Some of them are inexplicable" (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 5/3).
Fargo said the subcommittee's decision to include San Diego was "a little disappointing." Fargo added, "But I certainly understand why they want to be certain there is no question when it is over about who won" (Sacramento Bee, 5/3).
Joe Panetta -- president and CEO of Biocom, San Diego's regional life science association -- said, "We're thrilled. Our best hope was to come in second." He added, "Now, we have an opportunity to make our case on Friday" (Los Angeles Times, 5/3).
San Diego officials have "justifiably ... voiced complaints about the fairness" of the site-selection process, a Union-Tribune editorial states. ICOC has been charged "to do what is best" to make the process work, and "[t]hey have that responsibility to the taxpayers," the editorial states (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/1).
San Francisco "offers the CIRM the greatest chance to succeed," Newsom writes in a San Francisco Examiner opinion piece. According to Newsom, San Francisco's proposal "met or surpassed the criteria by the CIRM" in "every way" (Newsom, San Francisco Examiner, 4/29).
The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday profiled ICOC Vice Chair Edward Penhoet, one of the few ICOC members "who know both the world of university science and the high stakes business of biotech."
According to the Chronicle, Penhoet has "a wealth of experience turning medical discoveries into treatments," but he has expressed concerns that voters might have "unrealistic expectations" about the potential of stem cell research, the Chronicle reports. In 2004, he also expressed concern about the precedent Proposition 71 would set for funding science through the initiative process (Barnum, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/2).
Stem cell research guidelines approved last week by the National Academies are "a good starting point for a promising field of research," a Chronicle editorial states. The guidelines "have a special meaning" in California because "this state has pulled out the public wallet to fuel research," but they will not "end the stem cell debate," according to the editorial (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/3).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.