Santa Monica, CA — Gov. Schwarzenegger’s executive order to lend the cash-strapped stem cell institute up to $150 million will put the agency on solid financial footing, but grants must not be made until ownership rules and a strategic plan are in place, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today.
“You wouldn’t shoot a $150 million movie without a script,” said John M. Simpson, FTCR’s Stem Cell Project director. “Before funding a major scientific project, you need a plan and regulations governing ownership of any discoveries. Otherwise we’re truly talking about a blank check for biotech.”
Proposition 71 provided $3 billion in bonds to finance stem cell research. With the financing, $6 billion of taxpayer money is at stake. Because of a legal challenge, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has been unable to sell bonds and has relied on an earlier $3 million state loan and donations to fund operations. CIRM made training grants this spring financed with bond anticipation notes purchased by philanthropic organizations. It was the beneficiary of a gala fundraiser in San Francisco.
“This state loan is better than going hat-in-hand to fat cats with a potential vested interest in the outcome, begging for money,” Simpson said.
The stem cell oversight committee’s Intellectual Property Task Force has nearly completed ownership rules for grants to universities and non-profit research organizations. Work has just begun on IP regulations for grants to companies. A strategic plan — essentially the $6 billion roadmap for research priorities over the next decade — is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“CIRM should move forward with deliberate speed,” said Simpson. “Haste prompted by the hype too often surrounding stem cell research will guarantee waste.”
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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 located at http://www.stemcellwatch.org.