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Stem Cell Institute’s Request For First Research Grant Applications Provides Opportunity For Full Review Of Proposals, Affordability Guarantees Still Needed

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Santa Monica, CA — A call from the Proposition 71 stem cell institute for applications from scientists for the first research grants appears to provide enough time to review applications for their scientific merit, but still lacks adequate rules ensuring that any cures are affordable for all Californians, consumer advocates said today.

At its August meeting the stem cell institute’s oversight committee approved plans to fund the first research grants intended to “jump-start” stem cell research in California after the cash-strapped agency received a loan of $150 million from the state’s general fund.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is concerned that the pressure to show results from a program that was approved by voters in 2004 and stalled by legal challenges could lead to hastily made and poorly considered grants that waste public money. FTCR also said that the stem cell institute must have policies in place that ensure any treatments and cures developed with taxpayer money are accessible and affordable for all Californians.

“Haste makes waste,” said John M. Simpson, FTCR’s Stem Cell Project Director. “With $6 billion of taxpayer money at stake, I’m glad to see the stem cell institute is allowing enough time for a thorough scientific review process, I hope they take full advantage of it. But more important is that before any money goes out the door they need rules ensuring that all Californians can afford the fruits of any research.”

Under guidelines posted on the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine‘s website, letters of intent to apply for CIRM SEED Grants and CIRM Comprehensive Grants will be due Sept. 15. Full applications are due Oct. 13 and Nov. 13 respectively. CIRM envisions awarding the SEED grants in March 2007. The Comprehensive Grants would be awarded in March or April.

“It’s imperative that all proposals are vetted with the utmost care, based completely on their scientific merit, ” Simpson said. “FTCR will be among those watching and insisting that happens. The process must be completely transparent.”

FTCR will also press to ensure that ownership rules for any Prop 71-funded discoveries are based on affordability, accessibility and accountability.

Proposition 71 provides $6 billion in taxpayer-funded stem cell research and bond financing. A working group made up of 15 scientists from outside of California and seven patient advocates will review the applications and make recommendations to the stem cell oversight committee about what grants should be funded.

“The scientific advisors should be required to disclose their financial interests publicly,” Simpson said. Under regulations just approved by the oversight committee, the advisors will file disclosure statements with the agency that will be available to the state auditor. However, the information will not be made public.

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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.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdoghttps://consumerwatchdog.org
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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