Sunday, March 22, 2015

Effort to End $500 Million California Stem Cell Research Loan Program Stalls Again

The California stem cell agency has postponed action on a proposal that would have all but eliminated its $500 million loan program, which has been deemed less than worthy.

A subcommittee of the agency’s board had been scheduled to act on the new plan last Thursday. However, the meeting was postponed at the last minute with no public explanation.

In response to a question, Kevin McCormack, senior director for communications, said last week,
“The meeting was postponed so we could work on the proposal some more before bringing it to the subcommittee. The document was removed from the website because it was actually the wrong document. It was an earlier, outdated version of the proposal and didn't reflect many of the changes that were made.” 
However, the plan (dated March 13) remains on the agenda for the full board meeting on this Thursday. Presumably, failure to remove it as well was an oversight. 

(On Monday March 23, the loan item was re-labelled as postponed on the full board meeting agenda. The plan was still available online via the link above as of this writing.)

This is the second postponement on the loan overhaul. The first came in January and also was cancelled late with no public explanation.

Randy Mills, who was named president of the agency about 11 months ago, said in the March 13 memo to the board that the existing loan effort was “overly complex, administratively burdensome, and, as reflected in the number of loans issued, it does not appear to be attractive to industry.”

Only five loans have been made since the program was begun in 2008.  Only two loans are currently active.

The agency has not responded to a March 18 query concerning whether any businesses provided direct input into the loan changes proposed by Mills. 

The existing loan program was the brainchild of Robert Klein, a real estate investment banker who was the agency’s first chairman.

Mills plans to replace the loan program as part of his efforts to speed development of stem cell therapies. No awards have yet been approved under that effort, which began only on Jan. 1. 
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