Monday, October 31, 2005

Ortiz: CCST IP Report Tilted by Insiders

An influential California state legislator today sharply criticized an earlier report on stem cell intellectual property, declaring that the state was not "well-served" by a "premature" study that "glosses over" important issues.

Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, released the statement at the beginning of the hearing by the Senate and Assembly Health Committees into IP issues involving the California stem cell agency.

She targeted a stem cell IP report this summer by the California Council on Science and Technology, which she said was prepared by industry insiders.

“We need very clear and strong standards to ensure that the state’s interests are protected and that the state receives a meaningful economic return on its investment,” said Ortiz, who is chair of the Senate Health Committee and the Capitol's most influential legislator on stem cell issues.

"We’ll hear significant concerns today that that report was premature, and that it glosses over many important issues that we should be spending time deliberating, including important unintended effects of the Bayh-Dole Act that have become apparent over time, the special constraints posed by the use of tax-exempt bonds as a source of financing for the research, as well as viable opportunities we may have to ensure that the stem cell therapies and treatments that ultimately result from Prop. 71, which we are all hoping for, are accessible and affordable to lower as well as upper income Californians.

"The bottom line is I don’t believe the CCST report provides either an objective or comprehensive analysis of the full array of options that are available to us to draw on in developing an IP policy for stem cell research grants.”

Ortiz said California must manage IP rights so that they provide for affordable access to any therapies that result and also do not "impede the rapid and broad dissemination of basic research findings and tools."

She additionally addressed the issue of using tax-exempt bonds for stem cell research, declaring that her proposed constitutional amendment would make that more likely.

“If we are not able to use tax-exempt bonds, the $200 million annual cost of paying off the bonds becomes even larger in five years when the state begins paying off the bonds, potentially forcing us to make cuts in other vital programs. Given that we are unlikely to see any real economic benefits from the research for 10 years or more, it becomes imperative that we use tax-exempt financing to the greatest extent possible.

“That’s why my SCA 13, currently on the Senate floor, requires the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee when it is negotiating intellectual property agreements, to seek to ensure that treatments, therapies, and products resulting from Prop. 71-funded research are accessible and affordable to low-income residents, an approach that is more likely to be possible using tax-exempt bonds for the research.”

Below is the text of Ortiz' excerpted remarks, which are not yet available on her web site.

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