Friday, May 27, 2005

Not For Everybody: Details of CIRM's Analysis of SCA13

The California stem cell agency has prepared a detailed and strong critique of the proposed ballot measure to tighten oversight of its activities.

The eight-page memo, however, was not generally made available to the public and only circulated to the handful of persons at Monday's meeting of the Oversight Committee. It is not available on agency's web site as of this writing despite the fact that legislation was a major topic for the stem cell panel.

While the analysis treads some familiar ground for those following the issue closely, it is the first full-blown public explanation of CIRM's position that we have seen. Particularly interesting are areas that deal with compensation to the state for products developed as a result of state-financed research.

The analysis says, "While it is reasonable – and required in Prop. 71 -- to ask that an intellectual property agreement is part of any Institute grant, it is na├»ve to believe that a level can be set for those revenue streams and may actually decrease the amount the state would get in the long run."

The document also deals in some detail with the peer review issue – whether it should be public and to what degree.

Arguing for private sessions, citing fears that scientists would be worried about damage to their reputations, the document says, "The public and the press cannot be expected to understand the differences between extreme criticism on one proposal and the extraordinary ability of the scientist or physician for break-through research in numerous other scientific specialty areas."

That is an interesting argument to make by an agency that says that the same, understanding-impaired public has spoken so wisely on Prop. 71 that no further changes should be made in it.

Since the memo was written, the proposed ballot measure in question, SCA13 by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, has been amended to deal with some of the objections raised in the analysis.

We learned of the document on Tuesday through a very brief mention in one of the news stories about Monday's Oversight Committee meeting. At that point, we asked the CIRM public information office for a copy. The response was that they were not aware of the analysis. We followed up with additional inquiries that were turned aside. On Thursday afternoon, CIRM supplied the document after we indicated we had it from another source. The explanation was that there had been a misunderstanding.

Regardless, it would seem to be in CIRM's best interests to make its own, rather effective analysis of legislation available to the public on its web site.

The full text of the memo follows in the item below. Sphere: Related Content

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