Friday, March 20, 2009

Snippets: CIRM Bonds, Clinicial Trials and TV Coverage

California Bond Picture – The state is moving ahead to unfreeze $500 million in funds to keep bond-funded projects on track. The Pooled Money Investment Fund approved the action on Wednesday, helping to restore a partial sense of normality to the Californa bond scene, according to John Myers of KQED. That's a tiny bit of good news for CIRM and its efforts to market bonds privately. Tom Petruno of the Los Angeles Times also reported today about the sale of California tax-exempt bonds next week to individual investors with interest rates of 5 percent or so. That makes them extremely attractive to California residents, who do not have to pay federal or state taxes on the interest. However, CIRM's bonds will be taxable, which will push their rates higher, costing the state more but making them appealing investments to the enterprises that may purchase them. No mom-and-pop sales on the stem cell bonds.

CIRM Board Audiocast – The CIRM board meeting drew 165 listeners last week to its audiocast, with 121 using the web address, the stem cell agency told us. The 45 others used a phone connection. The figure compares to 108 at the highest level at the January board meeting, the first time an audiocast was available. This is a worthwhile effort by CIRM, offering much wider access to its proceedings. Normally a public audience of about one-tenth the size of the audiocast listeners actually attends CIRM board meeting. However, the audiocast did suffer last week from a lack of promotion. The notice of the audiocast needs a mention on CIRM's home page for at least several days proceeding the board meeting. And it wouldn't hurt to get the various constituent groups to let their members and other interested parties know that an audiocast is available.

Secondhand Smoke on CIRMRobert Klein, chairman of the California stem cell agency, came under heavy fire this week on the Secondhand Smoke blog by Wesley J. Smith, an author and self-professed "trouble maker." Smith said Klein's leadership was "reminiscent of the entire financial mess at the federal level in a microcosm," among other things. Also this week, The Sacramento Bee carried a less vitriolic op-ed article by Smith on stem cell issues.

TV Time – The California stem cell agency scored some significant TV time in San Francisco on Tuesday with a 2 minute and 43 second piece. The ABC station, KGO, aired the story, which was keyed to a CIRM meeting aimed telling the public more about stem research. Carolyn Johnson did the narration. Stanford's Renee Reijo Pera held forth. Unfortunately Johnson reported that research at Stanford is funded "privately" by CIRM. As we all know, CIRM is in a very public funding situation. Nonetheless, TV coverage of CIRM is rare, and the agency should be tickled with the story.

CIRM on Clinical Trials – A 20-page summary of last month's clinical trials workshop conducted by CIRM is now available online. Readers would want to couple it with the transcripts from the session of the Standards Working Group at which it was discussed. They can be found here and here. The use of somatic cells and reporting requirements for oocyte donation were also part of the meeting.

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