Stem Cell Subcommittee Recommends More Stringent Conflict-Of-Interest Rules
A subcommittee of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee on Monday recommended that board members be required to divest or place in blind trusts investments in companies that spend more than 5% of their budgets on stem cell research, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The recommendations, which also would provide greater public access to meetings and information, are expected to be considered at ICOC's July 12 meeting.
Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) recently eliminated a similar divestiture requirement from a proposed state constitutional amendment (SCA 13) after ICOC "complained the measure was too draconian," the Mercury News reports. The rules were similar to those recently adopted by NIH.
The amendment also includes a provision that would require medical treatments developed through CIRM grants be made available at affordable prices to low-income residents. The subcommittee did not make a recommendation on this issue because of time constraints, the Mercury News reports.
Senate leaders last week delayed action on Ortiz's proposed amendment to let ICOC address her concerns.
Hallye Jordan, a spokesperson for Ortiz, said the senator was encouraged by some of the proposed changes but remained concerned by a recommendation that financial disclosure statements filed by ICOC advisory group members be kept secret (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 6/22).
Most research institutions and universities in California interested in Proposition 71 funding are "scrambling" to create jobs for stem cell researchers, the Contra Costa Times reports.
The University of California-Los Angeles is looking for 12 scientists to staff its new stem cell institute; the University of California-San Diego is planning to hire as many as 10; the University of California-San Francisco is looking for as many as eight over the next few years; Stanford University is looking for five or six; and the University of California-Berkeley recently hired one and is looking for at least one more.
According to the Times, the shortage of stem cell scientists has been affected in part because of President Bush's federal funding policy for stem cell research, which has "discouraged" students and young scientists from entering the field (Mason, Contra Costa Times, 6/21).
"California is at the forefront" of regenerative medicine in the United States, in part because of the passage in November 2004 of Proposition 71, Ian Wilmut -- chair of reproductive science at the Research Institute for Medical Cell Biology at the University of Edinburgh and scientific adviser to Geron Bio-Med -- writes in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. According to Wilmut, this "is a critical time for California, and San Francisco in particular, to take the lead in the United States on developing stem cell research."
With the "funding and political support now available," CIRM "could become the engine for American stem cell innovation," Wilmut writes, adding, "The rest of the nation, and indeed the world, will be watching" (Wilmut, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/22).