Friday, August 11, 2006

Money Talks in Connecticut Too

California's unprecedented stem cell research effort has drawn attention from throughout the nation and the world. The latest evidence comes from Connecticut, which has a $100 million, 10-year program underway.

As in California, money is an issue. Some in Connecticut seem particularly impressed with CIRM's prodigious fundraising efforts in the private sector. Connecticut's stem cell research advisory committee wanted to know more about it, according to the transcript from a July 18 meeting. All the persons mentioned below are members of that committee, including Ann Keissling, who serves on a CIRM working group.

Myron Genel, professor emeritus Yale School of Medicine:
"I think that Bob, you’re right, that it’s difficult to raise those funds, but I think that Ann earlier and that you Charles were indicating that it’s happening someplace. It’s happening in California. So that -- and I think it was Bob, you talked about you need to have the right strategy. To me a first step would be to confer with California. See what’s making -- allowing them to be successful."
Ann Kiessling, member of the CIRM Standards Working Group and faculty member at Harvard Medical School:
"One of the most straight forward things that they did I think as their overall working group is they sort of looked at the income of people in California and asked most of those people to sit on one of their boards. So they went to the very top income producing people."

Commissioner Robert Galvin, Connecticut state commissioner of public health:

"Wealthiest individuals."

Kiessling:
"The wealthiest individuals in California and they asked them if they would like to, you know, sit on one of the committees. So a lot of those -- "
Galvin:
"And to contribute?"
Kiessling:
" -- well, not necessarily contribute, but you know, that’s a group of people that talk to each other and for instance the co-chair of the Standards Working
Group in California, which is a group similar to this, it’s an advisory group as to how you’re supposed to go about what kind of ethical issues and how the money should be disbursed. The co-chair of that is Sherry Lansing (phonetic), who was CEO of Paramount Pictures for many years. You know, Sherry knows probably almost everybody in California. And the other person who was a very prominent member of that committee was Bob (Klein), who is the one who almost single handedly got the tax, you know, bond measure passed in California. So they really involved the people who could actually contact a lot of people in their committee work."
Galvin:
"That’s a very good point Ann because you’ve got to get to the decision makers."
Given the nature of Keissling's comments, we asked her if she had more to say. Here is her response verbatim:
"One of the most noteworthy aspects of the CIRM committees is enthusiasm and dedication to the task at hand. It has been a monumental task, moved forward with incredible determination and regard for public opinion.

"I think it is a good example of how opening the doors to the public generally has more positive than negative impact on new biomedical technologies, in contrast to the views of some that public involvement may impeed progress.

"My comments about who to involve on committees was meant to reference fund-raising ability -- individuals who both know who might be able to contribute and also have the enthusiasm and dedication to seek the funds. I did NOT mean to imply that especially wealthy individuals were specifically selected for committee assignments, as the quote below seems to suggest, that is not my impression.

"But having one third of the committees be 'lay persons' advocating for a specific disease provided a sense of urgency and dedication that truly supported the enthusiasm of scientists for getting the work done as quickly as doing a good job would allow. One disease advocate that comes to mind is Jonathan Shestack, a movie producer-advocate for autism ('Cure Autism Now') -- a member of the Standards Working Group -- thoughtful, erudite, energetic and driven -- a huge asset to getting the work done timely and as perfectly as possible.

"I've always been a supporter of public involvement in high tech issues, and my California committee experience has strengthened this view."
The exchange involving the committee begins on p. 85 of the transcript. Sphere: Related Content

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