Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CGS Says CIRM Legislation is 'Gentle'

The Center for Genetics and Society says the stem cell measure now before the California legislature would only "gently alter" affairs at the state's $3 billion stem cell research effort.

The group's comments came as as more activity surfaced concerning the measure, SB 1565, which comes before the Assembly Appropriations Committee today. It has sailed through the legislature without a dissenting vote despite fierce – sometimes scathing – opposition from stem cell advocates.

Commenting on the center's blog, Biopolitical Times, Jesse Reynolds said that CIRM's board of directors is engaging in "histrionics" and opposes the measure even though it would give them more flexibility.

Reynolds, who wrote presciently nearly four years ago about some of the problems that have surfaced at CIRM, commented Tuesday that the agency
"... can fund any biomedical research if a two-thirds supermajority of its grants review working group approves. The current Senate bill would lower that bar to a simple majority.

"This would not restrict the CIRM in any way. If anything, the bill simply gives the CIRM more flexibility. Considering that the grants working group generally operates by consensus, that the governing board must approve all grants, and that the CIRM currently generously supports non-embryonic stem cell research, the amendment would have zero practical impact.

"Nevertheless, the board worked itself into histrionics over any concession to the development of alternatives."
Reynolds' "gently alter" remark appeared in a related posting that said that Klein's apparent resignation as president of his lobbying group, Americans for Cures, was long overdue. A CIRM spokesman said on Monday that Klein had resigned, but deferred any further comment to Americans for Cures. That group has not responded to repeated requests for confirmation of the Klein resignation.

Reynolds' postings came as patient advocate Don Reed, vice president of Americans for Cures (the private lobbying group of CIRM Chairman Robert Klein), wrote on the influential Daily Kos political blog about the measure. He urged readers to lobby against the bill and send "hard copy" letters to the governor, asking him to veto the proposal.

Also, James Kovach, president of the Buck Institute in Novato, Ca., sent a letter to a member of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, declaring the organization's opposition to the Kuehl bill. He said it would disrupt embryonic stem cell research. The full text of the letter follows in a separate item below.

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