Monday, January 16, 2006

CIRM and Stem Cell IP Hearings: A Cold Shoulder to the Public

Only four business days remain before the California stem cell agency takes another crack at who will benefit economically from inventions developed as the result of the $3 billion in taxpayer-supported research.

This is one of the major issues for CIRM this year. It is also the subject of separate legislative proceedings, including a proposed constitutional amendment, SCA13, by State Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, that is on the floor of the State Senate. What California does this year will have an impact across the nation as other states also consider whether existing models for sharing the wealth are doing the job.

Despite the importance of the issue, no background material or proposed drafts of regulations can be found in the agenda of CIRM's Intellectual Property Task Force, as posted on the Web at the time of this writing. It simply says, "Consideration of draft IP Policy." Amazingly casual for a matter that could involve billions of dollars.

No draft of proposed regulations, much less a synopsis of what is under consideration. No explanation of whether the entire issue is on the table or whether particular subsets are to be considered. No links to previous material on the CIRM web site, which could have easily been done.

The scanty agenda of the IP task force is no exception. Generally, little or no material is available in a timely manner in advance of CIRM meetings. That makes it virtually impossible for interested parties or the public in general to prepare thoughtful comments on some very complex and important issues. All they have is three minutes at the end of the meeting to make some off-the-cuff observations. Even some members of the agency's Oversight Committee have complained about not having enough time to review agenda material because it is so tardy.

A cynic would conclude that CIRM is not interested in keeping affected parties even partially informed. Our opinion is that this is another example of the chronic cold-shoulder CIRM gives to much of its public disclosure responsibilities. The agency began business like this 12 months ago. Then it could be contributed to start-up problems. But it is past time for CIRM to fulfill its promise of adhering to highest standards of openness and transparency. Even small school districts in California do a better job of making their agenda material available online in advance of meetings. An agency that proposes to give away $3 billion must do better.

There is a new fillip to the task force's meeting, however. It will be accessible to the public in New York City at the Carlyle Hotel. One of the task force's members, former Hollywood executive Sherry Lansing, will be staying at the hotel and is going to participate via an audio hookup. The Carlyle describes itself as a "purveyor of privacy and a sanctuary of refined taste," but a CIRM official assures us that the public will be permitted to listen in on the deliberations. They also are likely to be allowed to speak during the public comment sessions.

The actual session of the task force meeting will take place at Stanford University. Other offsite locations for the 1 p.m. Jan. 23 session are in Elk Grove near Sacramento and UCLA. Specific room numbers are available in the agenda. We will carry the room number for the Carlyle when we receive it.

Additional material for the agenda may be posted by CIRM by this Friday. But for those of you who simply can’t wait, here are some links that will help to understand what CIRM is getting at. We should note that nearly all of the CIRM material comes from postings weeks after the date of the events. Moreover, even the text of CIRM's interim IP policy on training grants, approved more than a month ago is still not available online.

The transcript of the Dec. 6 meeting of the Oversight Committee. Discussion of IP begins on page 96.

The full transcript of the IP Task Force meeting Oct. 25.

The full transcript of the Nov. 22 IP Task Force meeting.

The full text of the National Research Council’s report: Reaping the Benefits of Genomic and Proteomic Research: Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation, and Public Health (2006). This is recommended reading by the chairman of the IP Task Force, Ed Penhoet.

Interim report on stem cell IP by the California Council on Science and Technology.

Draft of the interim policy for IP training grants presented at the December meeting of the Oversight Committee. This was approved with some slight modifications. The text of the approved policy is not available online at the time of this writing.
A host of material from the Oct. 31 hearing by Sen. Ortiz into intellectual property, including the transcript, background on Bayh-Dole and alternative intellectual property models.

Statement and testimony by the Center for Genetics and Society on CIRM Intellectual property policies.

Statements by the Foundation of Consumer and Taxpayer Rights on CIRM intellectual property policies.

The task force is composed of persons drawn from the CIRM Oversight Committee. They are: Edward Penhoet, chair; Susan Bryant, Michael Goldberg, Sherry Lansing, Ted Love, Philip Pizzo, Francisco Prieto, John Reed, Jeff Sheehy, Oswald Steward and Janet Wright.

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