The story is new to her readers so she covered a lot of ground familiar to readers of this blog, but she reported some additional details and comments from several biotech executives. Her story also carried some caveats from one watchdog and a member of the CIRM Oversight Committee.
Comments from industry were generally favorable. William Adams, chief financial officer of International Stem Cells in Oceanside, said,
"From our perspective, if we can pick up a loan for $2 million to $5 million, that helps us get a product into (clinical trials) and helps push us along to commercialization."Also quoted were Samuel Woods, president of Stemagen in La Jolla, Alan Lewis, chief executive of Novocell, a San Diego-based embryonic stem cell company, and William Caldwell, chief executive of Advanced Cell Technology, now headquartered in Los Angeles.
John M. Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumers Rights, however, was critical of initial suggestions that loans would not carry the same affordability and access requirements as grants.
"This is an end run around that carefully deliberated policy and that is outrageous."Jeff Sheehy, a member of the CIRM Oversight Committee, said he was concerned about the ability of the 26-person CIRM staff to administer a loan program.
"I don't think we have the capacity to evaluate and manage these kinds of things."The loan program is the brainchild of Robert Klein, chairman of the agency. He downplayed concerns about administering the program.
"So we could do the scientific review, but have a delegated underwriter who essentially can, in fact, be in a risk sharing position. Under a risk sharing agreement, for example, that delegated underwriter might get a part of the upside on the repayment of the loan, including a part of the interest revenues."Somers' report on the Internet carried one skeptical comment from a reader, "Gary63," who wondered about predicted loan failure rates of 30 to 40 percent. He said,
"Stay glued to this story...and follow the taxpayers' money."