Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Greed, Giveaways and the Public

An exchange at CIRM' s Intellectual Property Task Force meeting last month illustrated some of the conundrums facing the agency as it tries to deal with public perceptions and the marketplace.

The following question was posed by Jeannie Fontana, who serves as alternate member of the stem cell Oversight Committee. It was directed to and answered by Brad Margus, CEO of Perlegen Sciences of Mountain View, Ca.

Fontana: "As a patient advocate, you appeal to my sense of urgency and efficiency by which you try to come up with therapies. I'm curious, though, as you talk about what CIRM should be concerned about, appealing to companies' greed, trying to pull in the No. 1 draft choice, how do you think CIRM should handle the public's perception of taxpayer dollars going to a for-profit company that may be the most efficient way of developing a therapy, but for some reason that's perceived as giving away money, hard-earned taxpayer dollars away to the greedy pharmaceutical industry. How would you suggest we approach that?"

Margus: "Perception is really tough because people can construe it and twist it to sound like another Big Pharma is going to get rich off of the discovery. If tomorrow we had something ready for clinic -- I make that as an important milestone because that's when the dollars really go up and you really need a lot of expertise that isn't usually done in academic settings -- if tomorrow we had a stem cell treatment ready for the clinic, there are two roads you can go if you're CIRM. One would be to somehow have the infrastructure at CIRM to use CRO's and bid them out and have the CRO's do it. I think you want a party involved to partner with CIRM that's going to take it forward that knows how to do this in their sleep and can get it there.
"I think I could convey that to the public that, again, if it's been credible all along that your objective here is to move as quickly as possible, if the selection of that partner to take the research forward, in whatever company it was, was a very objective process with clear criteria, I don't think you would be castigated that much."

Fontana: "I wish that were the case. It doesn't seem to be that way."

Click here to go to the full transcript of the hearing. Sphere: Related Content

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