Unknowingly, they are creating a ripe opportunity in the nation's capital to extract a piece of the stem cell action from the recipients of government largess.
The players at 70 Pine are the executives at AIG, fast supplanting Enron as the most reviled company in modern American history. The Santa Monica address houses the offices of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit organization that has called for sharing the profits from any federally funded stem cell or other research.
A year ago, such a pitch would have died aborning. Today, given the scandals concerning AIG and other corporate failures, the political mood has changed and will change more – all in the direction that no one in the business community will like.
Trust in American business may be at its lowest point in history among the "informed public," according to one poll. Only 38 percent say they trust business to do the right thing, down 20 percent from last year. Presumably the figure would be even lower among the general public.
In a letter to President Obama, last week, Consumer Watchdog cited the California stem cell agency as an example for the feds to emulate in terms of sharing the wealth from any therapies that result from government-funded research. Under certain circumstances, CIRM grant recipients must pony up some cash if they bring a product to market profitably. No such requirement exists for the tens of billions of dollars handed out by the NIH.
The bailout brouhaha creates a golden opportunity for Consumer Watchdog and like-minded organizations to enact share-the-wealth requirements for federal research grants. The logic is compelling. Venture capitalists demand their share of the booty when they fund individuals or businesses. Why shouldn't the government, especially in these difficult financial times.
Consumer Watchdog and its allies could even make the case for attaching such requirements to the $10 billion biotech stimulus package being pushed by CIRM Chairman Robert Klein and the powerful Podesta lobbying group.