Saturday, January 31, 2009

Modest Coverage of CIRM Cash Problems

News coverage of the money woes of the California stem cell agency was skimpy today with only one mainstream media outlet discussing them at any length.

Our Internet searches turned up only three stories. They were in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Business Times.

Reporter Terri Somers of the San Diego paper produced the only story looking more deeply at the financial issues. The other two focused on approval of $58 million in training grants.

Somers wrote:
"The problem: Should the state stem cell institute keep approving research grants, even though it will run out of money about the end of September because of the state budget impasse?

"The answer: a resounding yes."
She wrote that CIRM is hoping to raise $138 million through the private placement of state bonds just to fund the programs through the end of 2010. Somers also quoted researcher Jeanne Loring of the Scripps Institute about the significance of CIRM's financial uncertainty.
"'You don't want to be hiring people for a couple months and then laying them off, especially since these are highly trained people we've already invested millions of dollars in,' said Loring, who has been promised about $7 million in three state grants.

"'I think the trouble is short-term, but I have to worry about the short and long term,' she said."
A shorter story by David Perlman of the Chronicle began,
"The governing board of the California stem cell agency tentatively approved $58 million in new grants Friday, but with the nation in recession and the bond market stagnant, board members decided to hold up the money and reassess the situation in March."
Ron Luety of the Business Times wrote,
"CIRM is considering a plan to sell bonds on the private market. Those sales are targeted at philanthropists who helped the state agency when lawsuits by taxpayer advocates and opponents to embryonic stem cell research delayed its startup.

"No timeline was set as to when the grants will be funded, but the CIRM board will study funding against at its March 12 meeting."
Overall, the coverage should be satisfying to CIRM, some of whose directors were deeply concerned about the negative message that its financial troubles would deliver to the public and the stem cell community.

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