Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Chronicle Calls for SB401 Compromise

The San Francisco Chronicle is telling the California stem cell agency and the state legislature's most influential stem cell advocate to settle their differences and move on with stem cell research efforts.

In an editorial, the Chronicle said that it would be better to avoid a ballot measure on the stem cell agency, which would be required by legislation – SB401 – authored by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, chair of the Senate Health Committee.

The Chronicle said,
"Ortiz has helped open a dialogue with the CIRM that will prove immensely useful to the public as their money is spent over the next decade. In her bill, she has prodded CIRM to adopt intellectual-property standards that would require for-profit companies using Prop. 71-funded research to return some revenue to the state, and the agency has agreed. She has also asked the board to take publicly available financial conflict-of-interest statements for the scientists who will review grant applications -- and it's still resisting."
The Chronicle continued,
"Far better would be for Ortiz and CIRM to work out their differences -- which, from where we sit, don't look too daunting -- outside of legislation. Ortiz is reasonable and flexible -- last week she agreed not to push SB401 for the November ballot. In recent months, CIRM has made an exemplary effort in trying to balance the concerns of industry, taxpayers and scientists as it proposed high governing standards. Ortiz's move allows not just her, but also a host of other interests, a tremendous opportunity to engage CIRM as it firms up a set of guidelines that take into account what's best for everyone in California.

"The key will be to lock in these regulations so that promises of transparency and checks against conflicts of interest are not dependent on the whims of whoever happens to be in charge of the stem-cell program at any given moment."
There is a bit of a rub in the "lock-in" requirement proposed by the Chronicle. The only way to do that is with a ballot measure. Indeed Proposition 71 is perhaps the best example of locking in matters bettered suited for regulation or legislation. If CIRM were not "locked in" the state constitution, it could have avoided some of the problems that have beleaguered it. Others, however, may well have arisen.

Regulations enacted by CIRM can be changed by CIRM. But Ortiz last year was satisfied with other regulations approved by the stem cell agency. And she may well be satisfied with them again. Sphere: Related Content

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