California Stem Cell Research Committee Faces Roadblocks on Proceeds

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 30, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Stem Cell Research Committee Faces Roadblocks on Proceeds Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 30, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — The stem cell research committee created by Proposition 71 to spend billions on research that destroys human life is facing more roadblocks. The University of Wisconsin, which holds patent rights to embryonic stem cells, wants part of any profits that come from any potential treatments.

Meanwhile, private biotech companies are balking at taking any money if too many regulations accompany it.

When California voters approved spend $6 billion, including interest, on the embryonic stem cell research, they did so with the understanding that the state would receive at least $1 billion back in profits from potential cures.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine even unveiled a plan last month to require universities and research companies to return 25 percent of their profits to the state.

However, the University of Wisconsin foundation that holds the patent rights to all of the embryonic stem cells currently in the U.S. is demanding part of the proceeds.

The Los Angeles Times peculates the battle could wind up in court and further derail the research that is already being held up by two lawsuits about various CIRM violations of open meetings laws and state oversight.

"Theoretically, could they close down research activity in California? Yes," said Ed Penhoet, vice chairman of the committee told the Times.

Andrew Cohn of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation told the Times his group is in discussions with CIRM and he said his side things they should agree on a way the university can benefit from the proceeds.

At the same time, the private research companies are throwing another monkey wrench into the process. They don’t want grants from the committee if there are too many strings attached.

They don’t want California officials dictating how much they can charge for potential treatments or the state obtaining the rights to the technology

Zach Hall, the institute’s president, told the Times he thinks a compromise will develop.

"There is a heightened sense that this is a public project. As part of that there is an expectation that there will be a very tangible return," Hall said. "Yet we know that if we are going to have therapies that are widely available … the private sector will have to be involved in a very fundamental way."

John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, one of the groups suing CIRM, says the state should hold the patents.

State Sen. Deborah Ortiz, a Democrat who has been leading efforts in the legislature to get more state oversight on CIRM, says she plans legislation to put on the ballot a measure that require grant recipients to share half of their proceeds with the state.

For pro-life advocates who didn’t want Proposition 71, the battles are a positive development because it means any research that destroys human life will only be postponed.