One board member gets it

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"All Californians are paying for Prop 71," said Dr. Claire Pomeroy, "so all should benefit from it."

Dr. Pomeroy is the Dean of the UC Davis Medical school and has a seat on the 29-member stem cell agency board of directors known as the Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (ICOC.)  The group met in LA this week and most of the headlines centered on $271 million in grants being handed out to 12 institutions to build stem cell laboratories.

But before the board took up the main attraction there was other business to consider.  One propsal was to offer another round of training grants aimed at big universities and research institutions. The ICOC voted to have the stem cell agency, the California Insitute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) fund training programs for pre-doctoral, post-doctoral and clinical fellows.

The ICOC envisions spending up to $48 million on as many as 18 programs over three years.  It’s essentially a continuation of CIRM’s current training program.

Such funding is no surprise. Thirteen of the ICOC members represent the very institutions likely to run the training programs.

But Dr. Pomeroy’s comments were aimed at another proposal called the "Bridges to Stem Cell Research Awards." These would offer $18 million for ten programs aimed at certificate, bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates at California State University campuses, private colleges and communiuty colleges.  Here’s part of CIRM’s description of the program:

Many of these institutions serve students from widely diverse ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds who may have limited opportunities in pursuing careers in regenerative medicine and related health sciences…

The ultimate goal of the program will be to expand California’s workforce in stem cell science, and, in the course of doing so, to expand the career horizons of students who are interested in research careers, and to provide students opportunities for future employment and professional training…
The program will require the partnering of home institutions — the applicants for the awards — with one or more internship-host organizations, including research universities, institutes, and companies with active stem cell programs.

Dr. Pomeroy was absolutely right. All Californians should benefit from the program we’re spending $6 billion on, once you count the bond interest.

That means not only opportunities for training that reaches everyday folks, but even more importantly it means that when there are treatments and cures that result from publicly funded research, those results must be affordable and accessible for all the state’s citizens.

Currently the ICOC begins its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance.  I suggest they start a new traditon. Before getting down to business, follow the Pledge with Dr. Pomeroy’s words: "All Californians are paying for Prop 71, so all should benefit from it."

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