Tuesday, March 13, 2007

CIRM Lending Plan Resurfaces, State Pension Funds Eyed

California stem cell Chairman Robert Klein Tuesday said $3 billion for stem cell research is not enough and touted a loan plan to leverage the state's investment.

Klein proposed lending a portion of CIRM's funds, which, when they were paid back with interest, could either be loaned once more or used as grants. He also suggested that the mammoth California state employee and teachers pension funds could be tapped for additional investments in stem cell companies and research.

Declaring that CIRM's goal is to develop cures, Klein said, "Three billion dollars is not going to get us there."

Some time ago, a CIRM committee briefly addressed the issue of making loans but put off any additional discussion to deal with more pressing matters.

Klein addressed the loan issue in the context of providing financial assistance for clinical trials, which can be very expensive. He said loans allow money to be "recycled" and increased through collection of interest. He suggested that they would be issued in the form of subordinated debentures to make them more palatable to the businesses involved.

Klein appeared at the Burrill & Company stem cell conference on a panel discussion that was entitled "The CIRM Strategic Plan: Corporate Perspectives."

The panel was chaired by David Gollaher, president of the biomedical industry group, the California Healthcare Institute. The group has expressed displeasure with CIRM's efforts concerning intellectual property, declaring that they threaten commercialization of stem cell therapies.

Gollaher did not specifically cite the CIRM rules or related legislation (SB771 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica) but he warned against placing barriers to development of products. Klein said it was important to provide economic incentives. He said that "preferential pricing has to be modulated and balanced against the primary mission" of the agency, which is to develop cures.

Bruce Cohen
, president of Cellerant Technologies, said CIRM's royalty rules are "painful but we can live them." He described them as "measurable and capped." But he said rules dealing with pricing make businesses "very, very frightened." He said they could have a "chilling effect" on a decision whether to take CIRM funds. Cohen noted that many medical firms already have plans to provide access to their products by low income persons. Sphere: Related Content

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