Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Halloween Meeting Set for $3 Billion California Stem Cell Agency: Last Research Awards Expected to be Made

California's $3 billion stem cell agency next week is expected to give away the last of its funds for new research awards and hear a report on private donations that it may have received in the recent past or perhaps expects in the future. 

The donations report is something of a mystery, based on the agenda, but perhaps appropriate for the governing board's meeting, which comes on Halloween, Thursday Oct. 31. 

More details are likely to be posted online in the next week or so and reveal more clues about the direction -- over the next 12 months -- of the agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

The agency expects to run out of money for new awards at the end of this month unless a there is a surprise announcement that a private fund-raising effort has produced significant results. CIRM was created in 2004 by voters, who allotted it $3 billion in state bonds. No other source of cash was provided by the ballot initiative. 

In addition to consideration of applications for clinical and translation stage awards, also on next week's agenda are:

  • "Use of public funds in connection with ballot measure presentation"
  • Last week's report on the economic impact of the agenc
  • Changes in the "administrative funds donor agreement and disclosure of funds received from donors." (Those changes were not available on the agenda but are likely to be available in the next few days.)
The ballot measure discussion involves the appropriate and legal role of the agency in connection with the $5.5 billion, proposed ballot initiative to provide additional support for CIRM. The measure is now before state officials for certification prior to being circulated for the 600,000-plus signatures needed to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. 

State law prohibits the use of state funds to support ballot campaigns. The agency has been careful to adhere to the law. But it is always a touchy area. A number of gray areas exist involving the agency's additional legal requirements to respond to questions and inform the public about the conduct of the taxpayer's business.

The public can comment and recommend changes in the proposed initiative between now and Nov. 12.  Suggestions for changes will be relayed to the backers of the measure.

Regarding the currently cryptic Halloween agenda, look for more details on the California Stem Cell Report between now and Oct. 31. We will be filing fresh items as the information emerges.  

Next week's meeting will be held at CIRM's Oakland headquarters. The public can attend and also participate via the Internet. Remote telephonic locations that are open to the public can be found in La Jolla, San Diego, Fresno and San Francisco. Directions and instructions can be found on the agenda.

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