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Los Angeles, CA -- The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) will call on the stem cell oversight committee today to protect California's $6 billion investment in research by challenging the validity of patents on human embryonic stem cells held by an affiliate of the University of Wisconsin.

FTCR will also urge the stem cell committee to ensure that the public benefit promises of Proposition 71 are kept. To meet its obligations to Californians who overwhelmingly supported Prop. 71, which puts $6 billion in public money at stake, the committee's policies must be grounded in the principles of accessibility, affordability and accountability, said John M. Simpson, FTCR stem cell project director.

The key issues FTCR will raise today at the stem cell committee's bimonthly meeting at the USC's Keck School of Medicine include:

  • The stem cell institute faces a threat from a foundation associated with the University of Wisconsin, which claims that it is owed licensing fees because it holds patents on all human embryonic stem cells in the United States. "This is an outrageous raid on the treasury of California based on over-reaching patents. No other nation in the world recognizes them," said Simpson. "They are blocking vital research in the United States. I call on the stem cell institute to challenge the patents' validity." Read FTCR's letter to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
  • The committee will vote today on a process to develop the stem institute's strategic plan. "This is really a $6 billion roadmap outlining how the institute will parcel out grants," said Simpson. "We have stressed it must be a completely public process and are encouraged that Zach Hall, stem cell institute president, appears to have heeded our advice."
  • Big biotech executives have claimed that the industry "won't engage" if Prop. 71 grants come with public benefit requirements. "Big biotech is saying do it our way or we'll pick up our Petri dishes and go home," said Simpson. "Don't believe it. That's the same mantra you hear from business whenever reasonable regulations are proposed, but they never follow through on their threats." Read FTCR's letter to Genentech Executive Vice President Stephen Juelsgaard.

Proposition 71 was passed overwhelmingly in 2004. It created the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee to govern it. The institute will parcel out $3 billion in grants for stem cell research raised by issuing bonds. With the bond financing, $6 million of California taxpayers' money is at stake. So far not a dime has been awarded because of lawsuits challenging Prop. 71. A decision is expected shortly, but will almost certainly be appealed.

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is California's leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org. Our stem cell information page is at located at: http://www.stemcellwatch.org.