California Stem Cell Research Agency Criticized Over New Fundraising

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Stem Cell Research Agency Criticized Over New Fundraising Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 2, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — The California agency set up to raise and distribute funds under Proposition 71 for embryonic stem cell research and human cloning has been unable to raise money because it’s embroiled in two conflict of interest lawsuits. Now, a new attempt to get cash fast is coming under fire fore more conflicts of interest.

The agency, in an effort to raise money quickly to begin funding research projects, has decided to sell naming right to big donors for just about everything imaginable.

The board of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine is proposing selling name rights for office space at its headquarters, putting names of biotech companies on student fellowships, and anything else it can find.

But it will cost donors a pretty penny to put their name conference rooms or scholarships — as much as $10 million each.

"No naming will be considered without a gift of substantial value," the proposed policy states, according to a Contra Costa Times report.

The plan is already coming under fire from taxpayer and watchdog groups that say the agency has run afoul of numerous state laws since Prop 71 created it.

"If they aren’t careful, they are going to be seen as selling out to biotech," John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, told the Times.

Jesse Reynolds, of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, said the plan is rife with problems. He said large donors could influence the grant process and pressure grants to be distributed to certain companies, research universities or only research targeting a disease that afflicts someone related to the donor.

"The potential for conflicts is there," Reynolds told the Contra Costa newspaper.

A CIRM subcommittee approved the idea on Thursday and the full 29-member committee is expected to sign off on it on Tuesday.

The committee is unable to borrow money to finance the sale of bonds to raise money for research projects because the bonds could be worthless if the committee is forced to fold if the lawsuits against it are successful.