Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sharp Exchanges as Stem Cell Board Tables Future Funding Proposal

A plan to finance the California stem cell agency after its $3 billion runs out in 2017 was shunted aside today after it ran into sharp opposition and questions from several of the agency's governing board members.

Vice chairman Art Torres attacked the preparation of the report as "offensive" because none of the patient advocates on the board, of which he is one, were consulted in its preparation. He said the CIRM staff should have prepared the $150,000 report -- not a consultant. Torres said the issue of sustained funding for the agency is the responsibility of the Chairman Jonathan Thomas, not the outgoing President Alan Trounson.

Torres' heated remarks drew a sharp retort from Trounson, who summarized the report for the board and said it was part of his management goals. Trounson said that he considered Torres' remarks an "attack on me," an assertion that Torres denied.

Other board members, including Thomas, said the report requires further thought and testing. They said the new president, who will replace Trounson, should be involved. CIRM Director Jeff Sheehy, another patient advocate, moved to table the report and put it in the hands of Thomas with the proviso that no further funds be spent on it pending further action. Sheehy's motion was approved on a voice vote.

The report was aimed at dealing with the loss of state bond funding for the agency.  The report called for private-public partnerships that would mean closer ties to industries. The funding would undoubtedly be considerably less than the $300 million or so that the agency currently hands out annually.

The proposal would also mean a considerable change in the nature of CIRM's program, likely focusing even more on research that is close to the marketplace.

Another bond issue for funding the agency has not been ruled out by the agency. But taking it to the voters is difficult politically and financially. The initiative campaign in 2004 that created the stem cell agency cost more than $30 million.  Stem cell scuttlebutt has it that former CIRM Chairman Robert Klein is talking up another bond election and perhaps even raising campaign funds.

Here is a link to Trounson's Power Point presentation today.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:34 PM

    Biomedical researchers across the spectrum are faced with an extremely tight funding situation. Restrictions on on federal funding of stem cell research were lifted in 2009. If a stem-cell based approach for treating, say, cancer, is highly promising, then it should be able to compete successfully for funding against an approach using a different technology. This would pertain either at the federal level or the state. If California is determined--despite its budgetary and tax-burden-related concerns--to fund translational research, then it should fund the most promising research whether stem cell based or not. See here for more.


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