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Oh, this is rich! During the campaign for Proposition 71, proponents promised that Californians would reap a cornucopia of benefits from borrowing $3 billion over 10 years to pay researchers in private companies and their business partners in universities to conduct human cloning and ESCR. And, they said, the poor of California would benefit from cheap medical treatments.

Well the California Legislature is holding them to that, and now the CIRM is wailing and gnashing its teeth that the very existence of the CIRM is threatened! Sounds serious: Is Bush sending in the storm troopers at last? From the CIRM’s dire e-letter of doom sent to scientists and supporters:

We need you to take a few minutes to help save the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and embryonic stem cell research in California. This is under siege right now in the state legislature. A few weeks ago, we failed to stop Senate Bill 1565 (Kuehl-Runner). The bill was passed by the Senate, and has now also passed through two Assembly Committees: Health and Judiciary. The final step before a floor vote is a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee (contact information below). We need you to act now and ask for a NO vote on SB 1565.

Over seven million voters expressed a desire to fund embryonic stem cell research when they passed Proposition 71. SB 1565 would remove the built-in preference for embryonic stem cell research—directly contradicting the will of Californians. We passionately support the goal of healthcare that is accessible and affordable to all Californians.

However, this bill will discourage private industry from developing therapies and cures. Currently, the law allows the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to provide companies with additional incentives to develop therapies for “orphan” diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Lou Gehrig’s disease. SB 1565 will eliminate these incentives, making it financially unfeasible for companies to pursue therapies for rare diseases. SB 1565 abandons these patients and their families.

What phonies! Did Californians express a “preference” for spending $270 million of their borrowed money for the most expensive buildings money could buy—as most of this year’s grants have done? Hardly.

Besides, would that it were so. But since Sheila Kuehl is a primary sponsor—for those who don’t know her, she played Zelda on the old Dobie Gillis television show and is very radical—it is highly doubtful that Kuehl’s desire is to destroy embryonic stem cell research! (Kuehl and I had a bit of a back and forth when I testified against the ultimately failed assisted suicide bill in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee a few years ago.) And indeed, she doesn’t. What is going on is forcing the CIRM to actually be sure that its grantees give back to the state’s poor—as the campaign promised it would. From the Legislative Analyst’s Report:

This bill requires the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to include in its intellectual property standards a requirement that each grantee and licensee submit for CIRM’s approval a plan that will afford uninsured Californians access to any drug that is, in whole or in part, the result of research funded by the CIRM, requires these plans to include a requirement that grantees and licensees sell drugs that result from CIRM funding and are purchased with public funds at a price that does not exceed any benchmark price in the California Discount Prescription Drug Program , and requires the Little Hoover Commission to conduct a study of the governance structure of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act by July 1, 2009.
Given the shoddy leadership of the CIRM, the governance structure needs revising. Moreover, the CIRM’s actions to date—and its opposition to the bill—shows that the entire enterprise is corporate welfare at its worst.

It passed 40-0 in the Senate. The biggest liberals in the state back it. I think it’s gonna pass. Yes!

Correction: The letter was not from the CIRM, but rather, its head, Robert Klein, also the head of a private stem cell lobbying company which actually issued the subject letter. This may be a distinction without much of a difference, but it needs to be noted. Klein subsequently resigned from the lobbying group after it engaged in vitriol against Sheila Kuehl. Would that Klein had resigned from the CIRM!

HT: David Jensen.

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