Wednesday, August 02, 2006

NY Times: Stem Cell Research Funding 'Fairly Robust'...Or Is It?

The blind men and the elephant are doing their dance again. One of the participants in the latest tango is the New York Times. Others include a venture capitalist and stem cell businessmen.

Here is what the Times carried in a July 25 piece by reporter Jodi Rudoren:
"Even with the limitations on federal financing, the overall financing available for stem cell research could be described as fairly robust, given that the research is still at a basic stage and that in addition to state money, philanthropies like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have made contributions. Moreover, in the private sector, biotech companies like Geron, Advanced Cell Technology and Athersys conduct research on embryonic or adult stem cells."
No attribution was given for that statement.

A somewhat different view was expressed in California the same day the Times published its piece, according to reporter Steve Johnson of the San Jose Mercury News, who wrote about a hearing held by the California stem cell agency. Here are some excerpts:

"'This is a risky business,' said Martin McGlynn, chief executive officer of StemCells of Palo Alto, which hopes to soon begin testing fetal stem cells to help children with Batten disease, a fatal degenerative ailment.

"That risk also makes it harder for biotech companies to get funding from venture capital firms that are skittish, said Ann Hanham, managing director of Burrill & Company in San Francisco, which finances biotech companies. She said venture capitalists generally prefer to see a return on their investment in five to seven years, which is unrealistic for most stem-cell entrepreneurs.

"Bruce Cohen, chief executive of Cellerant Therapeutics of San Carlos, was one of several executives at the meeting who applauded Proposition 71.

"But given the enormous amount of work that needs to be done to turn stem cells into treatments for such ailments as diabetes and Parkinson's disease, he said, 'even with $3 billion, that's not enough.'

"Cohen urged the stem-cell institute's board to pair its taxpayer financing with money from private companies, adding, 'Prop. 71 can make a huge difference in the world if it's seen as a way to leverage private capital.'"

Of course, there are those who will never be satisfied by any amount of funding. And given the influence that the Times has, its "robust" statement could color the thinking of decision makers nationally about the adequacy of financial support for embryonic stem cell research.

Rebecca Vesely of the Oakland Tribune also covered the CIRM hearing. Here is a link to her story.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog