Saturday, May 13, 2006

CGS Criticizes CIRM Fundraising

The Center for Genetics and Society of Oakland, Ca., is pointing out some of the difficulties involved with the unusual – for state government agencies – funding methods of the California stem cell agency.

In its latest newsletter, the center says,
"With the CIRM's ability to issue bonds still hampered by legal challenge, it has turned to novel methods of funding. It has not requested support from the state, a move that would likely open the door to legislative oversight. Instead, CIRM has turned to private sources for donations and below-market rate loans, an approach that increases the likelihood of undue private influence on the agency, and reinforces the perception that CIRM acts more like a private firm than a state body. After months of hints and speculation, CIRM board chair Robert Klein announced that five private foundations will loan $14 million to the cash-strapped agency via risky loans at below-market interest rates. Although it is not surprising that the lenders who agreed to this arrangement are people who have shown past support for biomedical research, the nature of their support reveals a likely interest in how the CIRM will later allocate its $3 billion in grants.

"For example, the foundation established by the founder of the biotechnology firm Amgen, William Bowes, loaned CIRM $2 million. A recent report by a venture capital firm described Amgen as a "stem cell company." Another $2 million came from the foundation created by John Doerr, a prominent venture capitalist who has investments in numerous biotechnology corporations. And Eli Broad, who previously donated $25 million to the University of Southern California for a stem cell research center, also loaned $2 million to the CIRM. It would not be surprising if he was especially eager to see CIRM research funds going to USC."

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