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Representatives of 10 state stem cell agencies are meeting today in Baltimore at the fall gathering of the Interstate Alliance on Stem Cell Research.  One key topic on the agenda is intellectual property rights.

That may sound arcane, but it's important. Intellectual Property -- IP -- policies determine who owns and controls the scientific discoveries that result from research.

My view is that if the public has funded the research -- as with California's land landmark $6 billion stem cell program -- then some of the benefit should go directly to the public.

Indeed, California's IP policies, partly due to Consumer Watchdog's efforts, provide that that if there is revenue resulting from state-funded stem cell research, a share goes directly back to California's general fund.

California's IP policies also require low prices for drugs and cures resulting from state-funded research if they are purchased with public money.  There is also a requirement for a plan to provide access for uninsured people.

Representatives from California will be sharing their IP experience with representatives from stem cell programs in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Also attending are representatives of the National Academies of Science, the International Society for Stem Cell Research, the United Kingdom and Canada.

IP policy may sound arcane, but it's the best place to ensure that the people paying for the research get affordable access to the fruits of what they have funded.

I'll be making that point at today's meetings. You would think it's obvious, but consider that under the federal Bayh-Dole Act there is no similar provision.  Millions of your tax dollars go into funding research, but if scientists hit a blockbuster, not even one penny goes directly back to the public.