Stem Cell Committee To Announce First Grants Despite Lack of Funds
The Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee on Friday plans to approve its first grants for the training of stem cell researchers, although the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine does not have the estimated $45 million needed to pay for the programs, the Sacramento Bee reports (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 9/8).
The state treasurer's office is attempting to sell $200 million in high-risk bond anticipation notes to fund CIRM's first grants because the state cannot begin selling $300 million in annual bonds provided under Proposition 71 until lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the arrangement are settled.
The state plans to sell bond anticipation notes to investors willing to risk that CIRM will win legal challenges to the institute's funding. If the lawsuits are resolved in the state's favor, the state then could repay investors with the bonds provided under Proposition 71.
However, a lawsuit was filed in July in Sacramento Superior Court raising questions about the validity of the temporary funding plan (California Healthline, 8/1).
CIRM leaders last week "promised worried committee members" that they will hold a press conference on Friday following Friday's vote on the grants "to put the best face on the situation," the Bee reports.
Interim CIRM President Zach Hall said, "We are going to come out of that meeting and say we have a fabulous training program here and that we are going to provide a work force for the country. We're going to play that up."
ICOC Chair Robert Klein said CIRM needs to show it is creating the "finest training program in the history of the country" to attract donors who would pay for the grants. Klein added that he is "very positive" he can secure the funding to pay for the first year of the three-year grants. Klein did not name potential investors but said he could have the money as early as October.
Jesse Reynolds, program director for the Center for Genetics and Society, said, "What purpose is served by announcing winners before you have the money? I can't think of anything beyond public relations."
Susan Fogel, coordinator for the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, said she is "disappointed" that CIRM is focusing on "spin and public relations that doesn't have anything to do with the science" (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 9/8).
The ICOC meeting on Friday "could be extremely telling" because "it may reveal the rivalries that sit beneath the surface of the institute's oversight board, which includes hypercompetitive university officials, biotech industrialists and advocates for various patient groups," a Bee editorial states. There "are also some side dramas," including the release of Hall's "new organizational chart that gives the president more control over his employees," the editorial states (Sacramento Bee, 9/8).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.