Task Force To Recommend Licensing and Monetary Policies for Stem Cell Agency
A California Council for Science and Technology task force is preparing recommendations for how the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine should handle the financial rights to any discoveries resulting from Proposition 71 funds, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The Legislature asked CCST -- an organization of academics, business executives and lawyers -- to create the task force, which includes some Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee members. The task force is considering measures that address:
- Whether the scientist, the state or the institute where a discovery was made should own rights to the discovery;
- Which party should be responsible for administering the sale of discoveries;
- What amount should be charged for the sale; and
- Whether discoveries should be sold exclusively to one buyer.
The task force "has the option of tweaking or radically rewriting nationally accepted procedures" under which NIH and other institutions "generally get little or no monetary return" on issued grants, the Union-Tribune reports. California voters were told during the Proposition 71 campaign that CIRM grants likely would pay for themselves eventually.
Although a study commissioned by Proposition 71 supporters showed that the state could recoup $537 million to $1.1 billion if it obtained a percentage of licensing and royalties from possible research developments, the Union-Tribune reports that the analysis assumed "either that private investors or companies would agree to pay additional money on top of what they traditionally pay research institutes to license technologies -- or that research institutes would be willing to take less."
Public and private institutions currently take ownership rights of any discoveries resulting from research funded by NIH. Federal regulators "learned through the years" that "a revenue incentive is necessary to motivate" research institutions to go through the patent and licensing process, the Union-Tribune reports.
The task force's recommendations are expected to be presented to ICOC and the Legislature this month. If the Legislature decides that ICOC policy is not equitable, some lawmakers have said they would pursue a ballot initiative addressing the issue.
Policies at CIRM -- the first agency in the U.S. to directly use public funds for specific scientific research to compensate for federal restrictions -- are "expected to be viewed as a national model for other states," the Union-Tribune reports (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/17).
ICOC Chair Robert Klein did not "use a competitive bidding process" for two public relations firms to which CIRM has paid more than $100,000, nor did "he seek competitive bids" before hiring a law firm for $320,000, a Sacramento Bee editorial states. ICOC members "learned of these expenditures at a meeting in Irvine last Tuesday, and some were furious," the editorial states.
Klein said the contracts were legal because, in keeping with a University of California policy agreed to under Proposition 71, the agency can issue single-source contracts. However, "Klein's answer was disingenuous" because UC campuses can issue single-source contracts "only for specialized work," the editorial states.
Klein "continues to act like a micromanaging political campaigner instead of the chairman of a prestigious research institute" and is the "chief" cause of "grief" for ICOC, the editorial states (Sacramento Bee, 7/17).