Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stem Cell News Coverage: Spending, Geography and Planning

News coverge of the meetings of the California stem cell agency was a bit light this week with only the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune and Bloomberg carrying stories.

However, we may see something later from the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, both of which had reporters at the Tuesday meeting.

Terri Somers of the San Diego paper focused on the question of geography as a criteria for selection of research facilities (see item below). She wrote:
"The (Oversight Committee) has shown geographic biases before.

"(Committee member Duane) Roth recalled that the vote on the location of the institute's headquarters – whether in San Diego or San Francisco – was ultimately decided by a vote in which the majority of board members selected what was geographically convenient for them.

"Roth suggested that if geography would be a big factor, applicants should compete for grants regionally."
Carl Hall of the Chronicle discussed the agency's spending plans for 2007 (a revised budget for the agency is expected to be formally presented in December.) Hall wrote:
"California stem cell policymakers revealed a rough outline of what could be a $500 million attempt in 2007 to push the state's stalled experiment in stem cell research into a new phase of productive grant making."
He reported that stem cell chairman Robert Klein says he expects facilities grant to "almost certainly by matched 2 to 1 by institutions and private donors." The committee, however, has not yet set a matching criteria that exceeds 20 percent.

Rob Waters of Bloomberg wrote about the draft of the agency's strategic plan.
"The agency's motto, 'turning stem cells into cures' was on the report's cover. The message inside was more nuanced: While the agency seeks to accelerate research, the report said 'it will take time, perhaps decades' to get proven treatments. The statement drew support from scientists, concern from those afflicted by diseases that may be helped by stem cell therapy.

"'I think some people will look at this plan and say the goals are too modest,' said Leon Thal, a University of California-San Diego neuroscientist and member of the agency's governing board. "'I disagree. I think they're realistic.'"
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