by Steven Ertelt
September 9, 2005
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — The California embryonic stem cell research committee set up by Proposition 71 has awarded its first grants, but they come with no money because the committee is still involved in three lawsuits against it. Despite that, the committee plans to herald the grants as a major breakthrough in stem cell research.
If it had funds, the California committee would send $45 million to approve new research training at California colleges for stem cell scientists.
Still, the committee plans a press conference today to tout the grant and put its best face on the situation.
"We are going to come out of that meeting and say we have a fabulous training program here, and that we are going to provide a work force for the country," Zach Hall, the agency’s interim president, told the Sacramento Bee. "We’re going to play that up."
Meanwhile, Robert Klein, the wealthy real estate magnate who is the controversial chairman of the committee, says the pretend grant is needed to show it’s supporting the "finest training program in the history of the country." That will help bring in more money for grants.
The grants have been delayed because the committee can begin selling the bonds necessary to raise funds. The bonds could be worthless if two lawsuits filed against the committee over problems with Proposition 71 and breaches of ethics rules prevail in court.
Klein hopes the attention over the research grants will prompt wealthy individuals and groups fighting various diseases to pony up big bucks to launch the first year of the program.
Klein says he think he may be able to raise enough money to begin the grants by early October, but he told the Bee he wouldn’t name any potential investors.
Even if Klein can raise the funds, one of the lawsuits seeks to block them from being used until the courts have concluded their hearings on it.
Jesse Reynolds, Center for Genetics and Society program director, told the Sacramento newspaper that the committee should refrain from handing out any grants until the lawsuits and ethical issues accompanying them are resolved.
"What purpose is served by announcing winners before you have the money?" he asked. "I can’t think of anything beyond public relations."
He criticized the panel’s desire to "do things fast rather than do them right."