Stem Cell Oversight Committee To Address State Constitutional Amendment, Other Issues
The Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee at a meeting on Monday is expected to issue a formal response to a proposed amendment (SCA 13) to the state constitution that would revise provisions of Proposition 71, the Los Angeles Times reports.
California Institute for Regenerative Medicine officials have expressed "serious concerns" about the amendment, the Times reports (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 5/23).
The proposed amendment, by Sens. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) and George Runner (R-Lancaster), would require CIRM and ICOC to comply with conflict-of-interest provisions similar to those approved this year by NIH. The amendment would apply state open meeting and record laws to CIRM and ICOC. Under the amendment, research grants also would include provisions for possible state royalties (California Healthline, 5/19).
At the Monday meeting, ICOC will consider adoption of guidelines for embryonic stem cell research issued last month by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine. The guidelines were written to address the lack of federal regulations regarding stem cell research.
ICOC also is scheduled to hold a closed meeting on pending lawsuits that could delay the distribution of research grants.
An announcement last week by researchers in South Korea that they have efficiently created cloned human stem cell lines and President Bush's reassertion that he would veto any bill to increase federal stem cell funding have "underscored the importance" of issuing grants in California "as soon as possible," the Times reports.
CIRM interim President Zach Hall said, "I think it speaks volumes that on the day the Koreans announce a significant advancement that holds scientific and medical hope, the president announces he will cut off a much more modest and weaker proposition." Hall added, "We could be doing that here. We need to be doing that here ... and we're not even out of the starting blocks" (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 5/23).
The New York Times on Sunday examined how Proposition 71 has caused "a wave of recruiting calls" from institutions in California seeking stem cell researchers from other parts of the country. Recruiters are finding "unaccustomed ease" in persuading scientists to move to the state, the Times reports.
Academic leaders in California see an opportunity to make their institutions a "center of gravity" in embryonic and adult stem cell research, as well as related fields such as embryogenesis, the Times reports.
Philip Pizzo, dean of medicine at Stanford University, said, "When I think about recruitment in stem cell research, it will impact each of the major thrust areas in the school of medicine," including neuroscience, cardiovascular research and immunology.
"Right now, we do seem to have a leg up" in terms of recruiting, Arnold Kriegstein, director of stem cell research at the University of California-San Francisco, said. Kriegstein plans to hire six to eight stem cell biologists (Wade, New York Times, 5/22).
ICOC at its Monday meeting "needs to demonstrate some oversight" of ICOC Chair Robert Klein, a Sacramento Bee editorial states. "In recent weeks, Klein has installed his cohorts as state employees [and has] hired and fired consultants without consulting his fellow board members," the editorial states.
Klein also is "fighting" Ortiz, whose amendment includes "reasonable goals," according to the editorial. The editorial concludes that ICOC "should look for ways to compromise with Ortiz, so this institute can get on with the job of finding lifesaving therapies" (Sacramento Bee, 5/22).