Friday, September 23, 2005

Where's The Money?

"People quote things out of context all the time, but we tried to make it clear what it was." -- Bruce Deal, managing partner of the Analysis Group, the Menlo Park firm that produced a report that touted the largess that Prop. 71 would provide for California.

Reporter Malcolm Maclachlan quoted Deal in a piece in Capitol Weekly headlined "Stem Cell's Shell Game. It was the first interview that we have seen with Deal, whose report has come under criticism, particularly in light of the California Council on Science and Technology's admonition that California should not expect big returns from the California stem cell agency any time soon.

One might suspect some of the critics of a bit of dissembling. Most of them are not so naïve as to expect that studies generated on behalf of political campaigns are paragons of balance and objectivity. It is, and was, hardly realistic to expect campaign supporters to put out a report on Prop. 71 that was less than approving.

The report in question was produced by Laurence Baker, an associate professor of the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Deal, managing partner of the Analysis Group.

Maclachan wrote, "The figures, Deal said, were based on payouts that some research universities have received for IP (intellectual property) rights. They were calculated on the assumption that, over time, Prop. 71 would pay for both basic research and later-term studies leading to commercially available therapies. 'The idea of the report was to give examples of what could be possible if therapies were successful and the state could secure intellectual property rights,' Deal said. 'People quote things out of context all the time, but we tried to make it clear what it was.' "

The Baker/Deal study is likely to be a subject of continuing interest because of the intellectual property issues involving the the stem cell agency. State Sen. Deborah Ortiz, chair of the Senate Health Committee, has already said she expects more benefits than what the CCST study says is reasonable. The stem cell agency itself scheduled and the cancelled one meeting this month on IP matters. And still out there is Ortiz' proposed constitutional amendment which could make a statewide ballot in nine short months. Her previous legislative efforts at openness within the agency forced it to tighten its rules. The constitutional change could serve as a hammer to convince CIRM to attempt to provide more benefits to the California from taxpayer-financed stem cell research.

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