California Hearing Focuses on Stem Cell Research Panel Concerns

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 10, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Hearing Focuses on Stem Cell Research Panel Concerns Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 10, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — California lawmakers held a hearing on Wednesday to address concerns that the stem cell research panel authorized by Proposition 71 is not operating ethically. Legislators won promises of cooperation from the new head of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to address the issues.

The hearing discussed the interests of taxpayers, how not to violate state open meetings laws and managing conflicts of interest.

Zach Hall, a former UCSF scientist recently named interim president of the stem cell panel, appeared before the committee. The highlight of his remarks was a promise to committee members to work with them.

"We believe that working with the Legislature is necessary to our success, " Hall said, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

Lawmakers were disappointed when an announcement came down beforehand that real estate magnate Robert Klein, the head of the agency, would not appear before the committee.

Klein instead sent a letter to Sen. Deborah Ortiz, a Sacramento Democrat who chaired the hearing. He said his testimony at the meeting could present problems because of lawsuits filed against the stem cell research panel.

Ortiz said she was concerned there was no method to address the growing number of problems with the stem cell agency. The measure approved by voters makes it nearly impossible for state legislators to make corrections or improvements.

Last month, two different groups filed lawsuits seeking to overturn Prop. 71 and the agency it created.

The People’s Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation filed suit saying that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine set up under Proposition 71 violates California law because it is not governed by the state.

"The drafters of the initiative went further than the law allows," Ted Costa of the People’s Advocate explained.

The lawsuit also says the stem cell panel should have had its members be elected instead of appointed by top California lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Californians for Public Accountability and Ethical Science, a newly created nonprofit group filed a second lawsuit and the group is backed by one of the people originally involved in the campaign to pass Proposition 71.

The CPAES lawsuit alleges that the stem cell panel is violating conflict of interest laws by exempting some members from holding seats on the panel who are officials with biotech firms or research universities who stand to benefit from grants from the agency.

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