Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Venturing into the Stem Cell Business

Venture capitalists are expanding their role in stem cell issues all across the country.

Their actions follow last fall's approval of Prop. 71 in California, which had major support from some venture capitalists in that state. Robert Klein, chairman of the California stem cell agency, told that his venture capital supporters had personal reasons for supporting the measure.

One venture capitalist, Michael Goldberg, sits on the Oversight Committee of Klein's agency. The entry of successful business men and women into public life is to be lauded. They bring much energy, talent and a different perspective to difficult issues. Nonetheless venture capitalists make their bones by flinty attention to their economic self-interest. As in any business deal, it behooves public officials to exercise equally flinty attention in dealing with venture capitalists.

Here is more on what writer Alex Kash of had to say about venture capitalists and stem cells and their effort in Massachusetts:

“It marked the second time VCs have rallied at the state level to support
the controversial research, which creates human embryonic stem cells as
a research tool and, proponents hope, eventually as a treatment for chronic diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Researchers and VCs scored a big win in California last November with the adoption of California's Proposition 71, protecting research there and providing a $3 billion state research fund. A good portion of the $24 million or more raised to support the measure came from VCs such as Brook Byers, John Doerr, Vinod Khosla and Joseph Lacob (all of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers of Menlo Park, Calif.), Gordon Gund and Amgen founder William Bowes of U.S. Ventures.

“Campaign chairman Robert Klein, a real estate investment banker, was the main political and financial force behind Prop 71. Klein, whose teenage son has juvenile diabetes, said through a spokeswoman that the VC contributors all had personal reasons for getting involved in Prop 71. The law creates a state board, chaired by Klein, that will dole out $3 billion in public funds mostly to research institutions, although startups will be allowed to apply for grants.

"'It was a role model for me,' (Massachusetts VC Chris) Gabrieli says. Prop 71 backers not only made their point about the research potentially saving lives, Gabrieli says, but also the campaign was "the first time effective arguments were made" in the stem-cell debate about economics, jobs and innovation.”

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