Stem Cell Forum Attracts International Field, Shows State’s Influence

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA — In an indication of California’s growing
influence in regenerative science circles, according to state
officials, 21 stem cell research institutes from around the world are
coming together in San Francisco for a two-day forum that starts today.

A total of 19 countries will be represented at the annual
meeting of the International Stem Cell Forum, which will review such
topics as a registry for human embryonic stem cell lines, and moral and
ethical standards for the research.

This is the sixth annual meeting and the first time California
has hosted the event, signaling the large role the agency and city will
play in stem cell research in the years to come, according to
California Institute of Regenerative Medicine officials, including
President Alan Trounson.

"Having a major forum like this that didn’t come to California
would say something," Trounson said. "They see California as the
leadership in the world."

State voters established CIRM with Proposition 71 in 2004,
providing $3 billion in bond funding for the research. Litigation
challenging the proposition tied up the agency’s ability to issue
funding until February 2007, when the State Court of Appeal affirmed
the constitutionality of Proposition 71, although Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger loaned the agency $150 million and private donors
stepped up with funding so the agency could hand out grants while the
lawsuits were settled.

Since April 2006, CIRM has handed out 156 grants totaling $260
million to 22 institutions, according to the agency. CIRM is the
biggest funder of human embryonic stem cell research in the world
because of Proposition 71, CIRM spokeswoman Ellen Rose said.

Today is also the deadline for applications for the second
phase of major facilities grants. CIRM is expected to hand out $262
million to institutes and universities applying for the money, Trounson

"They kind of got everything up and running under very
difficult challenges with the lawsuits," said John Simpson, with the
nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a watchdog group
closely following the San Francisco-based institute. "Now the real
problem is they’ve got to settle in for the long term."

Last year the Institute had four different acting presidents
after Zach Hall retired in April. Lori Hoffman, the Institute’s chief
finance and administrative officer for the agency, took over as acting
president for Hall, but in August Dr. Richard Murphy became interim
president. Trounson became the head in December 2007.
Contact the author at [email protected]

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