by Steven Ertelt
August 3, 2006
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — Thanks to a $150 million dollar loan Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized from the state government to the state’s embryonic stem cell research committee can begin funding its first round of grants. The grants had previously been held up because of lawsuits filed by pro-life and taxpayers groups.
After President Bush vetoed a Congressional measure that would have forced taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, Schwarzenegger said the state would make the loan.
As a result, the first grant for an embryonic stem cell research proposal could be made in February and the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine wants to begin reviewing proposals within weeks.
Anticipating the grants, the CIRM met and approved a resolution guarding against bias in the grant-making process by requiring members of the panel’s advisory board to disclose any ties with biotech firms or research universities, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The rules require panel advisors to disclose their investments and avoid suggesting grants for any scientist or institute with which they have a financial or other affiliation. It is similar to a policy already in place for board members.
"We now are in business,” Sherry Lansing, a CIRM board member, told the News.
The committee plans to authorize $151.5 million in grants to 70 scientists, firms or colleges and all of the grants will be used to study embryonic stem cell research, which pro-life groups oppose because it involves the destruction of human life.
Jesse Reynolds of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland told the News that he wasn’t happy with the new rules and said it amounts to "self-regulating" rather than having state oversight.
In a letter about the loan, the governor said, "I remain committed to advancing stem cell research in California, in the promise it holds for millions of our citizens who suffer from chronic diseases and injuries that could be helped as a result of stem cell research."
Schwarzenegger has come under fire from bioethics observers before.
He previously vetoed a measure, SB 18, which was intended to protect women who donate their eggs for research from being exploited.
Last month, lawyers for the committee asked an appeals court to speed up the resolution of two lawsuits filed against it. The lawsuits have prevented the committee from making the extensive grants they hoped to dole out for research projects.
Filed by the pro-life California Family Bioethics Council and the People’s Advocate and National Tax Limitation Foundation, two taxpayers groups, the lawsuits charge the committee with violating state laws.
They say the committee has not properly submitted itself to state oversight because it’s handing out state funds.
In April, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw sided with the committee and rejected the lawsuits. The groups appealed the decision to the 1st District Court of Appeals in San Francisco and their attorneys say they will go to the California Supreme Court if necessary.
Robert Klein, the institute’s chairman who has come under fire recently for using his position to endorse a candidate in a competitive primary, said he thinks the court will side with the request to expedite.