Thursday, January 22, 2009

Klein Wants $10 Billion in Aid From Obama Administration

The chairman of California's state stem cell research agency, Robert Klein, has unveiled more details of what appears to be a $10 billion-plus proposal seeking assistance from the Obama Administration to aid the biomedical industry.

Some of Klein's proposals would clearly benefit industry and researchers in California, but they also could have an impact in locations throughout the nation that have either major biotech industry centers or research facilities.

Klein laid out his thoughts in a draft of a five-page letter during a meeting Wednesday of the directors' Finance Subcommittee. John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., who sat in on the session, said the meeting was running late and Klein's plan was not even discussed. Klein said people should read it so it can be taken up at CIRM's full board meeting next week.

Klein proposed five "federal initiatives." They include a $1.5 billion biomedical lab construction effort, $2.1 billion for assistance to some established state government research programs (presumably including California), a $3 billion loan guarantee program that appears to dovetail with Klein's $500 million biotech lending plan and $6 billion for increased NIH funding of biomedical research. The fifth element would allow some small biotech firms to sell their R&D credits. It contained no price tag.

The letter and accompanying chart promised that the proposals would generate 159,832 "job years" based on estimates provided by an unidentified Stanford economist. The Klein letter did not explain the assumptions underlying the multipliers that were used to come up with the job count.

The letter appears to be directed primarily at Congress. However, it is not clear whether it has actually been sent.

The proposals are the subject of a report scheduled to be discussed next Thursday by CIRM directors in Burlingame. We have asked Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, if Klein intends to seek a vote on the proposals or whether he will simply ask them to sign it. He could take an assistance pitch under his signature alone, but we suspect that he would like to have all the board members endorsing it. One question that directors should ask is whether Klein or other CIRM employees will be traveling to Washington or other locations to lobby for the proposals. Another is how much staff time is being devoted to this effort at a tiny, 38-person agency that is chronically understaffed.

Klein's proposals to join the bailout/stimulus gravy train in Washington have grown rapidly over the past few months. CIRM itself, however, is currently well-financed and needs little assistance from the federal government. We have noted that there is a certain logic to Klein's effort. But we have also noted that the Obama Administration's financial pie is limited and that CIRM should step out of the federal hand-out line.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Those multipliers and other figures from the "unidentified Stanford economist" and "in conjunction with a cost-benefit analysis group" are from the original Baker and Deal report [PDF] from the Analysis Group, sponsored and promoted by Proposition 71 campaign. This is the one called "wildly optimistic" by the former biotech writer of the Wall Street Journal.


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