Monday, September 10, 2007

California Stem Cell Companies Not Too Displeased with CIRM Rules

Sometimes directors of the $3 billion California stem cell agency worry that they are imposing too many restrictions on future grants to the biotech companies that will be the key to turning research into therapies.

Now comes a report that a number of companies "seem willing to do whatever they must to qualify for state grants." They, in fact, are not looking down their noses at the largess to be disbursed from CIRM.

Reporter Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the business response that came out of a CIRM informational meeting Friday that was designed to shape state policy on the qualifications and criteria for companies that receive stem cell grants from the state.

She wrote,
"The response yesterday to the institute's questions was a surprise to the institute staff.

"Representatives from the biotechnology industry said they only need to tweak the (intellectual property) policy to make it work for companies.

"For instance, the companies don't want to publicly disclose competitive information, such as what percentage of royalties they receive for licensing out their discoveries or the amount of their product sales.

"Industry representatives said they also are concerned about how the state defines money for research and money for goods and services. Currently, Proposition 71, the voter initiative that created the stem cell institute, requires all the research it funds to be conducted in California. Goods and services bought with state funds do not necessarily have to come from California.

"If clinical trials are defined as a 'research' expense, rather than 'goods and services,' it could be a problem, company executives said.

"For speed, efficacy and even savings, companies often conduct clinical trials worldwide in order to get quick enrollment and a diversity of participants."
The response from the companies seems strikingly different than earlier, more hostile reactions from the California Healthcare Institute, which says it represents the biomedical industry in California. However, the reaction was not too surprising to those who attended the Burrill stem cell meeting in San Francisco last spring. A CHI representative appeared on a panel with several representatives of stem cell companies, who did not echo the lobbying group's more strident position.

Somers appears to be the only reporter who covered the teleconference meeting on Friday.

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