Santa Monica, CA -- Consumer advocates today challenged an outrageous assertion by Genentech's Executive Vice President Stephen Juelsgaard that the biotech industry "simply wouldn't engage" if the stem cell institute places reasonable public benefit requirements on Proposition 71 grants to businesses.
"Your remarks strike me as a blustering attempt to cow Californians into believing that needed stem cell research won't happen unless the game is played by biotech's rules -- otherwise you'll pick up your Petri dishes and go home," wrote John M. Simpson, Stem Cell Project Director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), in a letter to Juelsgaard.
The biotech executive made his claim during a presentation to the stem cell institute's Intellectual Property Task Force this week in San Francisco. The committee has just started to write the rules governing ownership of any discoveries made by businesses that are funded with Proposition 71 money.
FTCR said there must be a public benefit from taxpayer grants and that ownership policies for Prop. 71 drugs and cures must be based on affordability, accessibility and accountability.
Prop. 71 funds are already being described as "almost like free money" in venture capital circles. "Companies like Genentech are brilliant at being socialists when it comes to socializing the risk of drug development, " wrote Simpson. "But you are greedy capitalists when it's time to privatize the profit."
All loans and grants come with reasonable requirements and conditions, FTCR said. Just as a venture capitalist has requirements and conditions when providing money to a firm, so should the stem cell institute.
Though voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 71, not a penny has been spent on research because of a legal challenge claiming that the institute has operated outside the state's control in violation of the California Constitution. A decision by Superior Court Judge Bonnie Lewman Sabraw is expected soon. Proposition 71 provides $3 billion in bonds for stem cell research over 10 years. After financing costs, $6 billion of taxpayers' money is at stake.
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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.