Stem Cell Institute Moves Forward With Plans, First Grants Expected in May
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine created under Proposition 71 will begin to issue research grants in May, Independent Citizens Oversight Committee Chair Robert Klein said at a committee meeting Thursday, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. The 29-member ICOC met to discuss the first round of grants but decided to delay extensive discussion on the issue until its March meeting after an ICOC subcommittee on Monday proposed limiting grants in the first round of awards to not-for-profit organizations.
The proposal is "seen as a way to put off the controversial issue" of recouping the $3 billion bond investment "until the agency has better intellectual property standards in place," the AP/Mercury News reports (Elias, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 2/4).
In addition, CIRM on Thursday hired professional hiring firm Spencer Stuart to search for a head of the institute. The firm will charge $150,000, plus expenses, to help hire a CEO. The annual salary for the position is expected to be between $300,000 and $600,000 (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/4).
In related news, Klein has hired five staff members for CIRM who worked on the campaign in favor of Proposition 71, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The five staff members are the first of 11 employees who will work at the institute.
Klein on Thursday told ICOC, "Approximately five or six individuals over the last two years have developed a great deal of expertise, first through the Proposition 71 campaign, and then through the nonprofit entity that followed."
He added that they would be paid salaries comparable to similar positions in the University of California system, in accordance with Proposition 71 requirements. Four of the five new staff members will earn between $95,000 and $125,000. The fifth staff member's salary has not yet been determined.
Jesse Reynolds of the Center for Genetics and Society questioned Klein's move, saying, "There is still a disturbing amount of blurring of lines between the Yes on 71 campaign, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the nonprofit coalition supporting stem cell research and Klein Financial Services." Reynolds asked if the job openings had been posted publicly and if anyone had known to apply (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/4).
Reynolds also said he was concerned about Klein's fund-raising efforts, saying they might violate conflict-of-interest guidelines because Klein had lent the Yes on 71 campaign $1 million, the AP/Mercury News reports.
"This raises the prospect of the head of a powerful state agency asking for more money to reimburse his own campaign expenses from people who may desire grants from that agency," Reynolds said (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 2/4). He added, "It would be very easy for money and favors to mix in a way that is not in the best interests of the (stem cell agency), the people of California and Mr. Klein."
Klein said that he has made "no efforts to raise any money" to deal with his long-term debt with the committee. He added that the debt might never be repaid. Klein said all money raised by the campaign committee would be used to repay $1.3 million to vendors, rather than him (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 2/4).
Klein also said he would "not accept a contribution from any entity" that has a connection or a potential link to CIRM (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 2/4).
A 7,500-square-foot office in Emeryville will serve as a temporary home to CIRM, the Mercury News reports. The office space will be rent-free for the first seven months.
According to a statement released Thursday, the property owner, Wareham Development, has no financial stake in firms competing for research grants from the institute (San Jose Mercury News, 2/4).
Although ICOC officials said a decision on permanent headquarters has not been made, Emeryville economic developer director Patrick O'Keefe said, "We see the interim basis as potentially putting us in the running."
According to the Contra Costa Times, Emeryville "may have other advantages" to attract the institute, including its status as headquarters of biotechnology company Chiron and its proximity to the University of California-Berkeley campus and an Amtrak station.
In addition, real estate in Emeryville is less expensive than other communities in the Bay Area, the Times reports (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 2/4).
KPBS' "KPBS News" on Thursday reported on the committee's meeting. The segment includes comments from ICOC member Leon Thal, chair of the Department of Neurosciences at the UC-San Diego and director of its Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 2/3). The complete transcript is available online. 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.