by Steven Ertelt
July 2, 2005
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — Despite confrontation with the state legislature over rules to hold it more accountable and three lawsuits pending against it, the state panel created by Proposition 71 to spend $6 billion on unproven embryonic stem cell research may be able to begin disbursing funds.
Officials at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine say they have reached an agreement with state lawmakers to address concerns about violating state open meetings laws and conflict of interest rules.
Meanwhile, millionaire real estate magnate Robert Klein, who heads the panel, says he has assembled $100 million in short-term bridge financing from philanthropic lenders that would allow the panel to begin making its first set of grants.
The committee hopes to pay for a three year training initiative for stem cell researchers at medical schools across the state. The panel plans to meet in early August to rank the first 28 proposals it’s received.
Though issues regarding intellectual property and patent rights have not been resolved, even some of the lawmakers most interested in properly regulating the panel tell the San Francisco Chronicle that they’re okay with the panel giving away its first grants.
"They’ve come a long way," said Jesse Reynolds, project manager at the Center for Genetics and Society, an Oakland group that backs the destructive research. "In most cases, we’re down to arguing a surprisingly refined level of detail about these things."
The newspaper reports that some of the remaining ethical issues have been transferred to a new ethics committee that held its first public meeting Wednesday.
Though the panel may be able to finance a few smaller projects with the initial funds, large-scale grants are still on hold thanks to the lawsuits. Tax-exempt bonds can’t be issued until the lawsuits have been dispensed with because the bonds could be worthless if courts rule against the committee.
Scientists are moving ahead with projects despite the lack of funding on the hopes that the embryonic stem cell research panel will be victorious, the Chronicle reports.
Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, who heads up a stem cell research team at the University of California at San Francisco, is seeking funding for a $3.6 million training program for 16 graduate students.