Monday, October 05, 2009

CIRM Moving Forward with 'Vibrant' Economic Benefit Study

Key directors of the California stem cell agency tomorrow are likely to give the go-ahead to a $300,000 proposal to study the economic impact of its $3 billion research effort.

Under the terms of the RFP, the folks doing the study must “execute a vibrant and aggressive strategy to support the goals and initiatives of CIRM.”

Five firms responded to the RFP last year. Only one, LECG of Emeryville, Ca., is being considered tomorrow at a teleconference meeting of the directors' Governance Subcommittee. LECG says Henry Miller of its Washington, D.C., office and Jose Alberro will be co-directors of the study.

We have written previously about the credibility problems associated with any economic study funded by CIRM. There is no doubt that CIRM's efforts have a beneficial economic impact. But no CIRM-financed study will convince skeptics that the program is necessarily justified.

Nonetheless, CIRM is proceeding with the effort, which will undoubtedly be a useful public relations tool. The study is also likely to be served up at some point to support the need for additional state funding. And it could serve as a marketing device should CIRM push forward with its plans to peddle state bonds privately.

If the data are public record and available in a non-proprietary format, they could be useful to other economists and interested parties. Most of CIRM's records are public, but sometimes some of its important information is tucked away from the public gaze. The RFP, the LECG bid and the staff report carry no assurances that the information gathered during the study will be available publicly or in a format that could be used by non-CIRM researchers.

We have asked CIRM whether the economic data will be a public record and will carry the agency's response when we receive it.

The RFP for the study was first posted about a year ago, but is no longer available on the CIRM Web site. A CIRM staff report said that negotiations on the contract were suspended because of concerns about CIRM's financing.

The report said that contract being considered tomorrow will involve something of a pilot project. The staff said,
“The plan agreed upon between CIRM and LECG is to initially build a model around a test case, a specific disease – Polycythemia Vera – that is the target of a clinical trial under the direction of Dr. Catriona Jamieson at UCSD (the topic of a disease “spotlight” at the June 2009 ICOC meeting in San Diego). This clinical trial involves a small molecule drug therapeutic identified through studies using stem cells. The model will take into account direct benefits of CIRM funding (job creation through research and facilities awards), secondary cascades of CIRM funding (“multiplier effect” – e.g. payments to suppliers and subcontractors along with affiliated job creation and state revenues from income, sales and property taxes), potential savings in health care costs (compared to current therapies) and increased productivity for both patients and their caretakers (related to improved vitality and quality of life). Once this model is created, it will be evaluated and fine-tuned by a panel of experts selected by LECG and CIRM. The application to Polycythemia Vera will then be completed and a report prepared by December 2009.
"Subsequently, the model will be expanded and adapted for analyzing other diseases and other applications of stem cells for treating these diseases. In addition to the development of small molecules, other approaches will include cellular therapies (replacing cells, organs &/or organ functions) and the creation of normal and disease specific cell lines for screening (e.g. predictive toxicology) and early diagnostics. The entire project should be completed by the beginning of May 2010. Further, we expect the results to identify data that CIRM should collect on an on-going basis as part of its grants management process for use in future economic analyses.”
The other firms offering bids for the economic RFP included the Analysis Group, which previously performed studies for CIRM and the Prop. 71 ballot campaign. The others were RiskAnalytica, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Tripp Umbach.

The public can take part in the teleconference meeting at locations in San Francisco (2), Palo Alto, Irvine, Los Angeles and UC Davis. Specific addresses can be found on the agenda. Sphere: Related Content

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