Friday, February 23, 2007

CIRM IP Legislation Begins Its Journey to Mixed Reviews

The chair of the California State Senate Health Committee today formally unveiled her legislation aimed ensuring the state receives a return on its $3 billion investment in stem cell research. But the measure initially met with mixed reviews.

One potential ally wanted more and foes want less. CIRM itself said no comment would be forthcoming until it had seen the official text of the legislation (SB771), which is not available at the time of this writing.

The bipartisan bill, as presented in the press release by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, seemed to measure up to earlier information (see "CIRM Regulation").

John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said,
"The bill does not go far enough to ensure that all Californians have affordable access to the cures and treatments that result from stem cell research they are funding.

"There needs to be a provision that allows the attorney general to intervene if these therapies, treatments or cures are priced unreasonably.

"It's good that the bill would require an an access plan for uninsured people and that it would require purchases funded with public funds be made at the Medicaid price. The problem is that it doesn't do enough for all Californians who are paying to develop these treatments with their hard-earned tax dollars."
Jesse Reynolds, project director on biotechnology accountability for the Oakland-based Center for Genetics and Society, welcomed the measure, declaring,
"If a biotech company is making billions of dollars of profit from state-financed research, the people should receive a fair return on their investment, as well as access to any therapies."
Reynolds said the leadership of the stem cell agency has tried to "back out" of Prop. 71 campaign promises of huge economic returns to the state. He said,
"This would have been a billion-dollar bait and switch. The bill will make significant steps toward fulfilling these promises."
The California Healthcare Institute, which represents the state's biomedical industry, did not have an immediate comment. But the group is already opposed to CIRM intellectual property policies, which Kuehl says are too weak.

CHI says on its stem cell research page that CIRM's IP rules
"threaten to discourage commercial collaboration, technology transfer and licensing by (a) increasing the administrative complexity of licensing agreements involving CIRM-funded technologies in comparison to the mainstream of academic-industry transactions, which derive from federally-funded research, and (b) increasing investors' financial risk by imposing state price regulation on downstream products."
We should note that not all companies involved in development of the CIRM IP rules share CHI's adamant opposition to CIRM's IP rules. (CHI's stem cell page contains several links to more of its documents filed concerning CIRM IP.)

Kuehl drummed up some media attention in advance, granting interviews to both the San Jose Mercury News (see "CIRM Regulation") and Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Somers quoted Kuehl as saying,
“Californians are putting billions of dollars into this research. They ought to be guaranteed to get a little bit back, because everyone else is going to be on the take."
For more on the legislation, including the difficult task Kuehl faces, see "Rationale Behind" and "Legislators Target." Sphere: Related Content

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