Thursday, January 19, 2006

CIRM IP Plans: The 25 Percent Solution for the Golden State

The California stem cell agency has come up with a proposal to generate cash for California from inventions developed as the result of state-funded research grants.

It was among a number of matters addressed in a working draft of intellectual property policies that will be considered Monday at a CIRM meeting at Stanford (click here to find offsite locations at UCLA, Sacramento area and New York City).

The revenue sharing proposal calls for the state to receive 25 percent of the grantee organization's share of money garnered under a license agreement of a CIRM-funded patented invention. That would be after the individual grant recipient gets his or her cut. And the sharing plan does not kick in until revenues exceed $500,000. CIRM would require that the 25 percent fee be used for research and education that will benefit California.

Other proposals in the working draft are aimed at consistency with the Bayh-Dole Act, which is the model for splitting up the goodies on federally funded research. However, the draft is also designed to avoid some of the negative consequences of Bayh-Dole.

Here are the other "core principles" of the proposed IP policy, in addition to the state revenue sharing plan.

"Ownership: CIRM grantee non-profit organizations will own intellectual property that arises from CIRM-funded research activities.
"Broad Sharing: Intellectual property, including but not limited to data, knowledge, scientific articles, biomedical materials and patented inventions, that are made in the performance of CIRM-funded research will be shared broadly and promptly with the scientific community. This CIRM sharing policy is structured to extend the sharing of CIRM-funded intellectual property beyond practices commonly in use by the scientific community in 2005.
"Research Exemption: Patented inventions that are made in the performance of CIRM-funded research are to be made available for research purposes (at no cost) in California research institutions.
"Licensing: For patented inventions that are made in the performance of CIRM-funded research, grantee organizations are expected to negotiate non-exclusive licensing agreements where possible except in those circumstances when exclusivity is required to encourage the successful commercial development of the invention into products and services that can benefit the public. Further, grantee organizations are expected to grant licenses to companies with defined plans for access to resultant therapies for Medi-Cal and uninsured Californian patient populations.
"March-in rights: CIRM will retain march-in rights to be exercised in the event that CIRM-funded inventions are not developed in a timely manner or in the event that public health and safety concerns arise."

The proposal additionally contains interesting efforts to set up databases, assure wide and no-cost dissemination of research results and an emphasis on speedy development of therapies. Whether the CIRM proposal will meet the demands of critics is yet to be determined. It is a detailed and complex proposal, and, to use a cliché, the devil is in the details. For example, how can CIRM guarantee that its 25 percent fee goes for research and education? If the money goes into the state general fund, it is up for grabs for just about anything. Locking the money into research and education probably requires legislation, which could mean horse-trading with lawmakers, a practice that CIRM publicly eschews. That doesn't even address the question of whether research and education are the appropriate uses. Why not use the funds to aid low income seniors with chronic health care problems? Or why not use it to provide health care for women egg donors who suffer serious adverse consequences as a result of their contributions to stem cell science?

That is not to mention, why 25 percent? Is that a reasonable figure? How did the IP Task Force arrive at it?

We should note that plan was unveiled with no public outreach. It was simply posted quietly to CIRM's web site, two – possibly three -- business days before Monday's meeting. As we remarked earlier, amazingly casual for something that could involve billions of dollars. And it allows almost no time for serious responses by all interested parties at Monday's hearing.

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