California Stem Cell Research Panel Expects May Grants Despite Criticism

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Stem Cell Research Panel Expects May Grants Despite Criticism Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 7, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — Despite increased concerns that the committee established by Proposition 71 to disseminate stem cell research grants is moving too quickly and unethically, the new chairman of the panel says he expects the first research grants to be given in May.

"We have a responsibility to move as quickly as possible," Robert Klein, chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine said Thursday. "I admit that I am an optimist."

Klein must be for him to make such an assessment.

The committee has no home, no money and hasn’t hired a single employee. It is increasingly coming under fire for how it is operating.

When the committee first met, it had an ambitious agenda. However, an attorney sent a letter to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer complaining that it was running afoul of the state’s open meetings law by not allowing for more public input in advance.

Instead, committee members chose a chairman and vice-chairman and went home.

The 29-member panel met again Thursday to address more issues, including obtaining a $3 million loan from the California state treasurer to begin operating. The loan will help it hire staff and choose an office location.

The committee has also come under fire for cronyism.

Biotech company founder Edward Penhoet was selected as vice-chairman. Officials from research universities and other biotech firms were selected by elected officials to serve on the board. Their colleges and companies expect to receive millions from the panel.

Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland is one of many upset by the apparent violation of open meetings laws.

"I think that is particularly dangerous and ill-advised," Darnovsky told the Associated Press.

"The built-in secrecy provisions are a central flaw that may contribute to others," added Terry Francke, of Californians Aware, a nonprofit organization that promotes open government. "Prop 71 makes the process of governance almost entirely secret."

Aside from the creation of human life through human cloning and the destruction of it through embryonic stem cell research, pro-life groups were also concerned about how the committee would function.

A representative of one leading pro-life organization has every right to say, "See I told you so."

"Everything that we opponents had said about Proposition 71 … is finally dawning on those who had once supported its passage," Brian Johnston, director of the California Pro-Life Council, told

The altering of the state constitution to protect this entity and its controllers; the secret meetings; blatant abuse of public funds — what will actually total $6 billion by the time interest is paid off," Johnston explained, "all of this and more has finally dawned on some of the most eager former advocates."

Related web sites:

California Institute for Regenerative Medicine –
California Pro-Life Council –