Wednesday, June 20, 2007

San Diego Stem Cell Consortium Unveils Ambitious Plans

Representatives from the high-powered San Diego stem cell consortium laid out their vision Tuesday for a 135,000-square-foot facility to house scientists, engineers, ethicists and to serve as a home for programs for both junior research scientists and senior scholars.

Reporter Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the presentation, which was made to the California stem cell institute. It held a hearing in San Diego as part of its effort to devise procedures for giving away $220 million to build embryonic stem cell labs in California.

The consortium consists of the Salk, Burnham and Scripps institutes as well as the University of California at San Diego. Tuesday's hearing was the first time members of consortium had appeared in public together, Somers reported.

She wrote that at least one group favored the consortium's effort:
"'I don't know why the consortium emerged or how they did it, but the fact that it has is one of the key developments that Proposition 71 (the stem cell initiative) envisioned,' said John (M.) Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

"Proposals for such collaboration should be given extra weight in the grant application process, Simpson said."
Not everyone is enamored of the effort. Somers did not report any negative comments on the CIRM or consortium plans, which were probably not made at the session. But one reader of the newspaper's Web site, identified only as "ghoward79" filed this online comment on Somers' story:
"If it has such promise then private investors would be all over it. Think about the investment returns! Either way companies promoting this are making money off it and they want someone else to pay the price."
Tuesday's hearing was the last before a July 12 session of the CIRM Facilities Group to actually come up with the specifics of the lab grant procedures, which would then go to the Oversight Committee for approval.

Earlier sessions of the group were well attended, drawing more attendees than the meetings of the Oversight Committee. Transcripts from the sessions are available online. Institutions planning to seek grants or other interested parties would be well advised to read the transcripts. Additional comments can also be sent to CIRM staff, which is mulling over the proceedings in preparation for July's hearing. Waiting until the day of the hearing is a good way to be overlooked.

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