Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The New York Times, the California Stem Cell Agency and the San Francisco Warriors

California’s $3 billion stem cell research effort made one of its rare appearances in the New York Times this weekend in a long article on the front page of the newspaper’s Sunday business section.

The piece, however, carried not a word about the agency’s accomplishments. Instead the story by Matt Richtel talked about a proposal to build an 18,000-seat arena for the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

The arena would be located a short walk from the current headquarters of the stem cell agency as well as the UC San Francisco Mission Bay complex and the biotech enterprises that surround it. The proposal has triggered a major flap in the city involving the biotech industry, among other issues. A former vice chancellor of UCSF, Bruce Spaulding, is leading a move to block the project.

The stem cell agency, known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM), popped up in the article as a result of its decision to transfer its headquarters to Oakland. The California Stem Cell Report wrote about the move on Aug. 17, triggering a spate of articles in the Bay Area media. (See here and here.)

Richtel wrote,
Jeff Sheehy -- Sheehy photo
“’San Francisco has always been that other city with a different set of values,’” said Jeff Sheehy, a governing board member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the largest stem cell funding agency in the world. The institute is moving to Oakland after the expiration of a free-rent deal on its space near the proposed complex; it discovered that office rents in San Francisco were prohibitively high. He sees the arena, which he opposes (he would like affordable housing on the land), as suggestive that San Francisco secretly wanted mainstream credibility all along.
“'We should have an arena because New York has Madison Square Garden. We should compete for the Olympics and the Super Bowl,' he says, mocking the pro-arena attitude. He describes the new San Francisco as 'just another capitalist, consumerist, profit-driven, money-motivated Disneyland.'” 
Sam Hawgood -- UCSF photo
Another CIRM board member was mentioned in the piece, Sam Hawgood, chancellor of UCSF, which also employs Sheehy as a communications manager.

Richtel wrote that Hawgood “has offered qualified support for the Warriors, as long as the owners and the city address his big concerns about traffic, including creating dedicated lanes for health emergencies and increasing public transportation options and the number of parking lots.”

Joe Lacob -- Kleiner photo
In another stem cell/biotech-related linkage, Joe Lacob is one of the majority owners of the Warriors. He also contributed $759,017 to the campaign for Proposition 71, the ballot measure that created the stem cell agency in 2004. He is a partner in the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers venture capital firm, which pumped nearly $6 million into the campaign and which is a major investor in biotech.

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