(continued from here)
Before stem cells get used in therapy, there's the science of making them
The California Stem Cell Research & Cures Initiative
Stem cell backers focus on defeating anti-cloning bill
February 10, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO – The campaign committee that spent $35 million last year backing California's $3 billion stem cell initiative plans to use its fund-raising prowess to fight a federal bill seeking to ban human cloning.
Robert Klein II, the wealthy Palo Alto housing developer who led the campaign, said the organization intends to raise $1 million to fight Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and his anti-cloning supporters in the Senate. A spokesman for Brownback declined to comment on the issue.
Brownback is sponsoring legislation that would ban the cloning of human embryos for any reason. Such a law would directly threaten the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which intends to use some of the $3 billion in voter-approved bond money to fund grants for so-called therapeutic cloning projects.
Some stem cell researchers say cloning human embryos in petri dishes will help them better understand diseases. Cloning also could offer a way to avoid immune-system rejection after transplanting replacement tissue in sick people. The scientists universally oppose cloning to create babies.
Many abortion opponents and other conservatives view the work as immoral, regardless of its purpose.
"This is clearly going to be a major battle this year," said Larry Soler, the Washington, D.C.-based chief lobbyist for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The foundation is part of a Washington-based coalition of nonprofit organizations supporting stem cell research. The coalition has been battling various anti-cloning proposals almost since it formed in 2001. Two similar bills have passed in the House but have been stalled in the Senate.
Klein also is a board member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and is interim president of the California stem cell institute.
The campaign committee supported Proposition 71, which passed with 59 percent of the vote in November and created the California stem cell institute.
By Paul Elias
Heart stem cells found in newborns
February 10, 2005
UCSD researchers have found heart stem cells in human newborns, rats and mice, a discovery that could lead to novel treatments for pediatric cardiac disease, according to a report published today.
Called isl1+ cells, these cardiac stem cells were able to grow in the lab into fully functioning heart cells. The UCSD scientists describe their findings in the journal Nature.
Scientists had thought the cells are absent after birth, but the team at the University of California San Diego said it located a small number of them within an atrium of the heart.
In the lab, they were able to take a few of the cells and multiply them into millions of mature cardiac stem cells. The study suggests that isl1+ cells could be harvested from an individual's heart tissue, multiplied in a laboratory setting and implanted into the patient.
Researchers identified the isl1+ cells in the tissue of newborn rats and mice, and then in heart tissue taken from five human newborns undergoing surgery for congenital heart defects.
In lab experiments with the tissue, they found that isl1+ cells are programmed to become heart-muscle cells that begin to beat once they are exposed to other heart cells.
These stem cells are found in regions of the atrium typically discarded during heart surgery. So the discovery means that people might be able to receive their own cardiac stem cells to correct a spectrum of pediatric heart diseases, said UCSD researcher Alessandra Moretti and Karl-Ludwig Laugwitz, a Heisenberg scholar of the German Research Foundation. Both were co-authors of today's report.
Currently, pediatric cardiologists and cardiac surgeons rely on mechanical devices, human and synthetic tissue grafts and artificial and animal-derived valves to surgically repair heart defects, said Kenneth Chien, director of the UCSD Institute of Molecular Medicine.
The stem cells the UCSD researchers identified "won't grow a whole new heart, (but) our research has shown that they can spontaneously become cells from specific parts of the heart by simple co-exposure to other heart cells," Chien said.
Such cells, once implanted, might help infants born with heart defects maintain normal heartbeats, he added.
"We think that these cells normally play an important role in the remodeling of the heart after birth, when the newborn heart no longer relies upon the mother's circulation and oxygenation," Chien said. "We believe the isl1+ progenitor cells are left over from fetal development so that they can ensure the closure of any existing small heart defects and the formation of a completely mature heart in newborns."
Chien and his team plan to transplant the cells into animals to study their role in repairing injured hearts.
By Bruce Lieberman
Infusion of Young Blood Revives Old Muscles
By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Senior Writer
posted: 16 February, 2005
1 p.m. ET
Old and tired muscles might repair themselves just fine if it weren't for the old blood running through the aging human body, a new study shows.
It's not quite a recipe for the fountain of youth, but the work could lead to methods for healing wounds in the elderly and tackling some diseases.
Stanford neurologist Thomas Rando knew from previous work that aging muscles seemed to have all the ingredients to repair themselves but for some reason did not. In the new work, his team focused on specialized stem cells in muscle tissue.
Stem cells of various kinds are able to make new tissue, so they are key to the body's ability to replenish damaged skin, bone, muscle and more. Satellite muscle stem cells lay dormant when not needed. In young bodies, both of humans and rodents, these cells come alive when muscle is damaged.
In older mice, the study found, satellite stem cells appear normal but don't do their job.
In a test not for the squeamish, Rando and his colleagues fused the blood supplies of younger and older mice. Then they damaged the muscles in the older rodents by zapping spots with dry ice. The muscles healed, thanks to the young blood coursing through their bodies.
In a similar test, the livers of older mice responded better to the infusion of young blood, too. The researchers suspect a similar process might occur with other body cells.
The key to the process appears to involve a protein called delta. When muscles are damaged, satellite muscle cells produce more delta. But in older cells, the delta production doesn't rise. In old mice with young blood, delta again rises in response to injury.
The research demonstrates that "the decline of tissue regenerative potential with age can be reversed through the modulation of systemic factors," the scientists write in the Feb. 17 issue of the journal Nature.
It might seem like the fabled fountain of youth is a sanguine river running through you. But staying forever young is not so simple. "Basically, the main implications of our findings are not longer life, not a reversal of aging per se, and not really even a delay of the aging process," Rando told LiveScience. "Our findings really speak more the issue of tissue repair, for example in the setting of an acute injury."
Eventually, the research could lead to techniques that would help an older person with a broken bone, a skin wound, or a muscle injury.
"Tissue repair in older people could be enhanced so that it approaches that of younger people," Rando said. The idea is to restore function "not so much to a 'youthful' level but rather back to the point that the person was before the injury."
But there is much work to be done before even that is possible. It's not known what triggers the extra delta production in the muscle. It could be any of the thousands of proteins, lipids, sugars or other molecules in the blood, the researchers caution.
And for now, there's no evidence that the same trigger works for repairing different types of tissues.
"It's as big a fishing expedition as you can possibly imagine," Rando said.
A personal comment on the above:
Its actually the younger stem cells, HSCs and MSCs, contained in the blood that do the repairs. I should introduce Thomas Rando to Eric Kool's work. Surprisingly they are both with Stanford University.
Petitions challenge stem-cell initiative's constitutionality
February 23, 2005
Two petitions seeking to immediately stop California's stem-cell initiative were filed with the state Supreme Court yesterday by groups linked to politically conservative individuals who campaigned against the effort.
The petitions raise constitutional questions about the control of taxpayer funds and whether the initiative is too broad in the powers it bestows upon nonelected officials who will distribute $300 million annually in research grants.
Many anti-abortion groups oppose embryonic stem-cell research because it requires the destruction of embryos. But the groups stayed away from those issues in their petitions, just as they did in the campaign.
The stem-cell initiative known as Proposition 71, which created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, was passed by 59 percent of voters after supporters waged a $34 million campaign.
The Life Legal Defense Foundation, a lawyers group that opposes abortion and assisted suicide, wrote one lawsuit that alleges that Proposition 71 violates Article 16 of the state constitution because $3 billion in research funding it authorizes would not be controlled by the Legislature.
The petition the foundation filed yesterday lists two other groups, People's Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation, as the plaintiffs.
The groups took the unusual step of filing directly with the Supreme Court rather than Superior Courts because time is of the essence, said Dana Cody, a lawyer with the Life Legal Defense Foundation. Robert Klein, chairman of the oversight committee that will distribute the research funds, wants to make the first grant awards by May.
The groups seek to stop the state from selling bonds to fund the grants while the court weighs whether the initiative is constitutional.
The second petition was filed by a newly formed nonprofit group called Californians for Public Accountability and Ethical Science. It alleges that provisions in Proposition 71 that exempt members of the oversight committee from some conflict-of-interest laws are illegal.
David Llewellyn, the Sacramento attorney representing the plaintiffs, identified two of the people behind the new nonprofit: Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, who was president of the No on 71 campaign, and Joni Eareckson Tada, a paraplegic who founded Joni and Friends Ministries in Agoura Hills.
Officials on both sides of the petitions agree that some of the legal issues raised are very similar to those raised by Big Tobacco when it tried to stop Proposition 10, an initiative that placed a 50-cent tax on cigarettes.
In that case, tobacco's legal claims were found to be invalid, said Julie Bruckner, a spokeswoman for Proposition 71.
"Nearly 60 percent of the electorate voted in favor of Proposition 71, with the clear mission to find treatments and cures for disease," Bruckner said. "The same voters felt comfortable that there was ample oversight and public accountability built into the initiative. Those voters now have every right to expect the work of this institute to proceed."
By Terri Somers
Criteria for stem cell institute revised. Bay Area isn't shoo-in for site.
February 25, 2005
Putting the state's new stem cell institute in the San Francisco Bay Area is not a done deal. Members of the committee overseeing the initiative saw to that yesterday.
Committee members were presented with a proposal of the requirements that would be given to the cities – including San Diego – vying to become home to the institute. A subcommittee charged with selecting the site met by conference call, and many of its members said the criteria seemed to be skewed to favor one area over another, and proceeded to cut the controversial items.
"I know Fresno isn't in the running, but please don't push it in our face," Dr. Phyllis Preciado, a committee member from that area, said after reading some of the requirements that were later removed.
"We had to start somewhere," Committee Chairman Robert Klein said in defense of the criteria he developed with the help of the state Department of Government Services.
Biotechnology and economic development people around the state have said the Bay Area has a definite edge on being selected as home to the institute because Klein lives there. He's hired about six institute staff members so far, and most live in the Bay Area.
Klein, who helped write the stem cell initiative, has repeatedly insisted the site selection process will be open and fair.
Dr. Richard Murphy, president of the Salk Institute, questioned Klein about his proposal that the site be in a region that employs more than 25,000 people in biomedical research. That number would not include people who work in medical device companies.
"One could interpret this to be designed to fit the strengths of one applicant over another," Murphy said.
Several of San Diego's largest and most successful biotechnology companies develop medical devices.
Locating the institute in an area with a dense and talented work force in the biomedical area is important to attract the most talented person to be its president, Klein said.
The committee opted to drop the requirement. Instead, applicants will be advised to explain how rich their area is in biomedical research, including the number of employees in the sector, researchers and their level of education.
Klein also defended his proposal to locate the site within two hours total travel time of Sacramento because he anticipates institute staffers will be called to meet with legislators and state officials several times a month.
The committee voted to remove that as a requirement, and add it to the list of items that might give one site preference over others.
A revised version of the requirements, completed at the subcommittee hearing yesterday, will be issued Monday. Sites vying to be home to the institute must submit their proposals by 5 p.m. March 16.
The committee is seeking a minimum of 17,000 square feet of office space with two conference rooms that can each seat 50 people. It is seeking free rent, or nominal monthly payment for the first seven years.
The subcommittee charged with selecting the site will whittle the list to four or five sites March 25. After visiting the sites, the subcommittee will select its first and second choices April 22. Those choices will be presented to the entire 29-member committee May 6.
By Terri Somers
Stem Cell Central?
With its concentration of scientific know-how, San Diego looks to become world headquarters for stem cell research...
By Eilene Zimmerman
San Diego Magazine
'Safer' stem cells bring therapies closer.
Completely fresh supplies of human embryonic stem cells have been created for the first time without having to grow them on potentially contaminating mouse "feeder" cells. Nor do they need to be nourished with serum derived from animals.
The breakthrough boosts the prospects of growing safe tissues for transplant from embryonic stem cells - the unspecialised, primitive cells in the embryo from which all tissues originate.
"The ability to generate new stem cell lines in completely [mouse-]cell-free and serum-free conditions solves a major problem associated with the use of stem cells in the treatment of human medical conditions,"
Recent experiments showed that all lines of human embryonic stem cells grown on a scaffolding of mouse feeder cells may be potentially contaminated with animal substances and therefore unsafe for treatment.
This includes the cell lines approved by President George W Bush in 2001, which federally-funded US scientists are restricted to use.
Stem cell institute leader in the hot seat
By Terri Somers
March 10, 2005
SACRAMENTO – The new president of California's fledgling stem cell institute cordially took a grilling yesterday from a joint legislative committee that wants to wrest some control over $3 billion the institute will spend over the next decade.
State Sen. Deborah Ortiz, who presided over the five-hour hearing, asked institute President Zach Hall to promise that the citizens committee overseeing the initiative would consider adopting a policy that any drugs or therapies that result from the state's research efforts be made affordable and available to all Californians.
Ortiz and other legislators also criticized the oversight committee's plan to hold some working group meetings in private. And they debated protections for women who donate their eggs for research.
But all the legislators could really do was debate and ask for promises. The elected officials have no direct power over the stem cell institute, its funding or its oversight committee.
Proposition 71, the stem cell initiative, was specifically written to avoid meddling by the Legislature for the first three years.
But Ortiz is trying to work around that.
She wants to hold at least two more public hearings with the stem cell research officials before she leaves office in two years. Such hearings, she said, help keep oversight committee members accountable and give them guidance and direction when setting policy.
If something goes wrong and the people of California don't like what is happening with the stem cell institute, Ortiz said, they will hold the Legislature accountable. "The average person doesn't distinguish between the (stem cell research oversight committee) and the legislature," she said.
Ortiz was a vocal backer of Proposition 71, which received 59 percent voter approval.
She introduced legislation in December, before the oversight committee held its first meeting, that seeks to resolve what she sees as some of the initiative's policy problems. Those issues were debated yesterday.
Robert Klein, chairman of the oversight committee and an author of Proposition 71, has assured Ortiz that the committee would address her policy concerns, if it was just given the time.
Ortiz had planned to grill Klein on its progress yesterday. But Klein instead sent Hall, who was hired a week ago.
And Hall calmly took one for the team.
He vowed that all decisions of the oversight committee would be made in public, including who will get the $300 million annually that it will give in grants.
When Vince Brown, chief operating officer in the state controller's office testified yesterday about performing audits of the stem cell institute, Ortiz tried to get him to pledge his boss's endorsement of her bill.
Brown said he'd have to talk to his boss, Steve Westly.
Ortiz said she also sees other options for controlling the research dollars.
It might be possible to pass legislation that skirts Proposition 71, she said. For instance, she said, Senate lawyers said a law establishing protections for egg donors might pass muster because it would include more than just women involved with stem cell research.
Scientists say Connecticut needs $100 million to compete for stem cell work
By Matt Apuzzo
March 15, 2005
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Connecticut needs to commit $100 million for stem cell research if it wants to compete for the best researchers in the pioneering field, scientists from Yale and the University of Connecticut said.
That's five times more than the $20 million, two-year plan proposed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, but two of the state's top scientists said researchers won't choose Connecticut without a long-term commitment, especially with California pumping $3 billion into stem cell research.
"We think we're going to need something like $100 million over 10 years, minimum," said Dr. Robert J. Alpern, dean of the Yale School of Medicine, said last week. "Everybody understands it's going to take a bigger commitment."
Yale has already begun a worldwide search for a scientist to lead a new stem cell research group and the University of Connecticut is considering expanding its Center for Regenerative Biology, one of the country's leading cloning laboratories.
Scientists worldwide are eager to dive into the field because certain stem cells can morph into all cell types found in the body. Some scientists believe that stem cells can be used to repair damaged tissue, replace entire organs and cure diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Opponents of embryonic stem cell research say it's unethical to use cells from human embryos or fetuses and say there's no evidence it will provide scientific breakthroughs. Once funding begins, they say scientists will continue to demand more money.
"It'll be just a little bit more, just a little bit more," said Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council. "And at that point there will be billions wasted."
California voters recently approved $3 billion for stem cell research and many scientists expect the state will attract some of the top minds in the field. With New York, New Jersey, Illinois and other states also considering funding research, competition for the world's top scientists will be fierce.
"They're going to have to be convinced that there's a high likelihood of long-term money," Alpern said. "You're always at the whim of governments changing their minds."
Two lawmakers push for stem cell accountability
By Bill Ainsworth
March 17, 2005
SACRAMENTO – A bipartisan pair of legislators introduced a constitutional amendment yesterday that would apply open meeting, financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest laws to the agency that administers stem cell research grants under Proposition 71.
State Sens. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, and George Runner, R-Lancaster, said they are aiming to protect taxpayer money and make the organizations created to oversee the state's new push for stem cell research more accountable.
Besides the constitutional amendment, they are backing bills that would require audits of the new stem cell organization and seek to protect women's health by applying a three-year moratorium on multiple egg donations for research.
Ortiz, who favored the ballot measure, said the new bills will maintain public confidence and the state's financial investment in the research.
"These measures will uphold our promise to the public that Proposition 71 is implemented in an open, thoughtful and deliberative manner," she said.
Runner, who opposed Proposition 71, said the package will clarify the proposition.
"Unfortunately, there were many parts of Proposition 71 that were left cloudy," he said.
The ballot measure, approved by voters in November, authorizes the state to spend $3 billion on grants in an area of science that proponents hope will lead to cures or treatments for diseases.
Critics have worried that Proposition 71 doesn't have sufficient safeguards to guarantee that taxpayer money would be well spent. Two lawsuits against the new stem cell research organization contend that Proposition 71 illegally exempts agency members from conflict-of-interest laws.
The state Attorney General's Office said the stem cell agency will be unable to sell bonds while the lawsuits are pending. Attorney General Bill Lockyer has asked the California Supreme Court to take jurisdiction of the lawsuits to expedite the cases.
The new constitutional amendment would require a variety of laws that cover other government agencies to apply to the organizations created by Proposition 71, including the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, which operates the new California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the oversight committee's working groups, which will help decide who gets the grants.
The amendment must win the votes of two-thirds of the Legislature and then win approval from voters.
Robert Klein, chairman of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, in a statement with Vice Chairman Ed Penhoet, implied that the proposed package of legislation wasn't necessary.
The oversight committee, he said, is already moving ahead with significant conflict-of-interest rules to apply to advisers and staff. Furthermore, he said, federal rules are already in place to protect patients.
Klein disputed the notion that Proposition 71 doesn't have sufficient protections. When they approved Proposition 71, Klein said, voters were expressing confidence that the initiative "contains sufficient governance, oversight and accountability mechanisms to address the very same issues Senators Ortiz and Runner discussed today."
The measure was written to sidestep the Legislature by placing power into the hands of a 29-member board of directors composed of leaders in academia, research and business.
San Diego makes proposal for research headquarters
By Terri Somers
March 17, 2005
San Diego yesterday offered more than 17,000 square feet of rent-free office space overlooking the Torrey Pines Golf Course and surrounded by premier research institutes as the headquarters for the state's new stem cell institute.
San Diego was one of at least six cities that submitted proposals to the state yesterday. Some did it with a flourish in front of the media. Others did it quietly, even somewhat secretly.
All are hoping to be chosen as the hometown for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which will administer $3 billion in stem cell research grants over the next decade. A committee overseeing the implementation of the stem cell effort known as Proposition 71 will hold public hearings on the proposals before making a selection May 6.
Although the institute will employ no more than 50 people, it is expected to bring its host city prestige that could ultimately attract millions of dollars of investments in biomedical research and companies.
During the past month, a team that included representatives from San Diego city government, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., trade groups and private industry spent excruciatingly long hours putting together the proposal submitted yesterday. Much the same scenario was playing out in cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, Emeryville, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
"We just felt that this was a very important statement to make," Mayor Dick Murphy said. "San Diego is the life-sciences center of America, and we are going to do everything we can to keep us on the map."
He called the city's proposal a "remarkable effort in philanthropy."
San Diego defense contractor SAIC helped guide the team putting together the proposal. The company has experience submitting large proposals to the government and also administers the National Cancer Institute, said Julie Meier Wright, president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.
The 60-plus-page report includes photos of the office space and surrounding area, as well as maps showing the concentration of research institutes and biotechnology companies on Torrey Pines Mesa.
Slough, a real estate company that said it will have no connection to anyone eventually applying for stem cell research grants, agreed to donate the glass-walled, one-story office space. Slough would provide free rent, utilities, upgrades and janitorial services for the full 10-year lease.
The building on Torrey Pines Road is surrounded by biotechnology companies and is within a short drive of the Scripps, Salk and Burnham institutes and the University of California San Diego.
The committee overseeing the implementation of the stem cell initiative was seeking free rent for at least the first four years of the lease.
San Jose, San Francisco and Emeryville also submitted proposals offering free rent for the entire term of the lease. San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzalez held a news conference on the Capitol steps yesterday to announce that the plan he submitted offers two possible sites for the oversight committee's consideration – one near the airport and the other downtown.
Los Angeles offered a site in a downtown high-rise, where rent would be free for the first four years and negotiable thereafter. San Francisco did not reveal the details of its proposal yesterday.
The state Department of General Services did not release a list of all cities that submitted proposals. It is keeping all proposals under wraps.
In response, oversight committee Chairman Robert Klein and Vice Chairman Edward Penhoet released a joint statement encouraging bidders to post their proposals on their respective Web sites to foster full and open public access.
All the proposals that have been disclosed so far offer a range of amenities, ranging from free or discounted hotel rooms for people visiting the institute on business to free office furniture and discount rental cars.
The Los Angeles proposal offers $1 million in foundation grants to help with the administrative startup of the institute, plus private jet service on occasion.
Murphy was unfazed by that component.
"It is worth a million dollars to be out there on Torrey Mesa overlooking Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean, and to be surrounded by UCSD and some of the finest research institutions in America," he said.
San Diego is offering what amounts to much more than $1 million in free or discounted services to help get the institute up and running, the EDC's Wright said. Those incentives include 100 hours of free legal services, free branding and marketing advice from public-relations firm Mentus.
The San Diego Workforce Partnership offered to provide free help in recruiting staff, while biotechnology trade group Biocom and UCSD Connect are offering free memberships and the services those entail. SAIC is offering pro bono assistance in setting up information technology systems. Invitrogen, a Carlsbad company that sells products used by stem cell researchers, has offered free educational courses in that science to the institute staff.
"We wrapped things around the headquarters that we think are important for the institute to get a very solid start," Wright said. "And we've gone beyond that, looking to establish them at Biocom and Connect and other organizations, which will be the cornerstone of things we will be able to do for them in the future."
A unique feature of San Diego's proposal is the formation of a "Readiness Team" and an "Advisory Council." The Readiness Team would consist of public-and private-sector leaders and their organizations who would be available to assist in planning, coordination and startup of the facility, furnishings and systems.
The Advisory Council would be a team of top local executives who would be available to the institute for advice, introductions within the community, resources and crisis support.
Biocom President Joe Panetta said a San Diego address also would benefit the institute by putting it in the midst of a research community with a reputation for cooperation and collaboration.
"I don't think you can possibly go anywhere else but San Diego and see the kind of concentration of biotech and research and service firms and academia," he said.
Headquarters effort a study in teamwork
By Terri Somers
March 18, 2005
San Diego's life-sciences community often brags about how it is uniquely collegial and collaborative compared with other clusters of biotech and drug discovery companies.
That for-the-greater-good spirit encompassed even more businesses in the past month as the region quickly put together more than $9 million in donations to support a bid for the headquarters of the state's new stem cell institute.
The effort entailed 20-hour days, dozens of telephone calls soliciting help, lots of takeout food and raising about $4 million in less than two weeks.
"Everyone up to the mayor jumped in and helped out with various aspects of this, from fund raising to considering permitting," said Joe Panetta, president of the biotechnology group Biocom.
San Diego was one of at least six cities that submitted bids Wednesday to be the home of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which will administer the $3 billion in stem cell research grants that voters approved in November under Proposition 71.
An independent citizens committee overseeing the initiative will review all the bids and visit top contenders. The committee plans to select the institute's site by May 6.
San Diego's slick, 60-plus-page color proposal devotes more than a page to describing the region's spirit of collaboration and the advantage of having 38,000 people working in 500 life-sciences companies and eight research institutes located mostly in one or two adjacent ZIP codes.
"In more than a dozen enterprises on Torrey Pines Road, you will find daily interactions of lab scientists, administrators and professors who have the chance to walk down the street to poster sessions or visiting lecturers covering the latest in biology, chemistry and medical discoveries," the proposal states.
While there may be more biotechnology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, they are spread across several cities. Emeryville, San Francisco and San Jose submitted proposals, and San Jose offered two possible sites for the institute.
San Diego could have proposed multiple sites in multiple communities, Panetta said. But the communities and businesses agreed that a site in Torrey Pines would be best for the institute and the region's research community.
Panetta said the bid includes the most attractive site of those offered and appears to provide the most amenities to get the institute started.
In December, leaders of Biocom, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. and UCSD Connect, which promotes businesses and technology, started discussing how they could help the region's researchers vie for the $300 million in annual research grants.
"I said we also wanted to go for the headquarters," said Julie Meier Wright, president of the Economic Development Corp. "I saw this as the biggest statewide economic development opportunity ever."
Although the institute will employ no more than 50 people, leaders statewide think it will attract millions of dollars more of investment in research and business.
In January, the Proposition 71 oversight committee put out a request for proposals calling for 15,000 square feet of office space in an area with a high concentration of life-sciences companies.
The Economic Development Corp., Biocom and Connect leaders put together what Wright called a "Red Team," a group of people from government and industry who have expertise in many areas. As the weeks passed, the group grew larger.
Many of the initial members were familiar to one another because they belong to Biocom or Connect and have worked on other projects, said Brent Jacobs, senior vice president with Burnham Real Estate Services.
Private companies such as defense contractor SAIC were enlisted for their expertise in drafting large government proposals, said Jane Signaigo-Cox of the Economic Development Corp.
In January, the group started meeting for two to three hours twice a week to discuss what needed to go into the city's proposal. Between meetings, a flurry of e-mail ensued.
Mary Ann Beyster of SAIC went to the first meeting and was impressed by what she described as a "well-qualified and highly energized group."
The team listed about 20 properties that might be suitable with the help of Jacobs and Kennon Baldwin of McGraw/Baldwin Architects.
The site on Torrey Pines Road they selected is near the University of California San Diego and the Burnham, Salk, Scripps and Neurosciences institutes, as well as the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.
Last month, when the oversight committee adopted a finalized request for proposals, it boosted the space requirement to 17,000 square feet with low or no rent. Access to low-or no-cost conference and hotel facilities was added.
The site specifications narrowed the group's choice to the one it offered yesterday, which overlooks Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean. Baldwin and Jacobs contacted the U.S. director of Slough Enterprises, the English company that owns the building.
The company, which also owns institute-worthy space in the Bay Area, looked at the life-sciences roots established there and in San Diego. The company decided San Diego is best suited to hosting the institute, Baldwin said.
Although the market rate for the space is about $3 a foot, Slough agreed to make it available for $1 a foot, Panetta said. That discount represents about $4 million over the 10-year life of the lease, he said.
The Red Team quickly looked for donations to supplement that cost, since the fiscally troubled city could not take on that burden, said Duane Roth, who leads UCSD Connect.
Meanwhile, the team members called any company that provided services the institute will need. They ranged from hotels in La Jolla such as the Estancia, the Lodge at Torrey Pines, the Hilton and the Marriott, to office furniture vendors, to recruitment specialists, movers and even coffee services.
It usually took one telephone call to gain a commitment to help, Beyster said. And about 24 hours later, the company would call back with its offer of free or discounted services and support, she said.
Red Team members credit Roth with getting about $5 million more in donations to supplement the headquarters' rent in just over 12 days.
The Los Angeles bid includes $1 million from two foundations.
Roth said the San Diego bid includes donations from several foundations, businesses and individuals – 21 donors in all.
"The answers came back very fast," he said. "It was almost an immediate sort of, 'Yes, this would be really good for San Diego.' "
Reassure voters - Oversight for stem cell agency is good idea
March 20, 2005
Sometime this year, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine will begin distributing $300 million annually for the next 10 years, which is why a growing number of people are raising concerns.
Californians voted overwhelmingly in November for Proposition 71, the stem cell initiative, that eventually will cost taxpayers $6 billion, including interest costs for $3 billion in state bonds. The primary author of the proposal, Bob Klein, wanted research funded in the hope that family members suffering from degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, might some day see treatments or possible cures. In Klein's case, his teenage son has Type 1 diabetes.
But, as is the case with most initiatives, many voters did not read the fine print. Not discussed widely during the campaign was the fact that the institute would be governed by a 29-member board with no oversight from anyone. The bonds would be authorized from the state treasury, and the institute would distribute the money. Language in the initiative also allows a number of decisions to be made behind closed doors.
That lack of legislative oversight and a few other concerns are causing a delayed reaction. In February, two groups representing people who opposed Proposition 71 filed petitions with the state Supreme Court raising constitutional questions about the control of taxpayer funds and the power of the nonelected oversight board. (Members of the board are appointed by the governor, other constitutional officers, University of California chancellors and others.) State Attorney General Bill Lockyer said last week that the institute likely will not be able to begin distributing grant money until the suits are decided.
Another challenge came last week from two members of the Legislature – Sens. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, and George Runner, R-Lancaster – who want to place limits on the institute. Ortiz, who actively supported Proposition 71, and Runner, who opposed it, both proposed a constitutional amendment that would impose conflict-of-interest requirements and open more meetings to the public. It would further require than medicines developed with public funding be made available to Californians at affordable prices.
Separately, they also introduced a bill banning for three years "multiple egg donations" from women who want to contribute them to research. Embryos created from in vitro fertilization procedures still would be available to researchers.
Because of the way Proposition 71 was structured, the Legislature can only change it through a constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and Assembly, and subsequent approval by voters. Ortiz and Runner say they have wide support in the Legislature.
Klein and others on the oversight committee have said they want to work with the Legislature. Considering the amount of money involved, compromises must be reached, or the Legislature should move ahead with plans to put the constitutional amendment before voters during the next election.
What stem cell agency can find here
By Standish Fleming and Ivor Royston
March 22, 2005
Hundreds of life sciences researchers, CEOs and financiers converge on San Diego today for the 2005 CalBio Summit. The buzz at the conference will certainly be the selection of a site for the headquarters for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine that will administer $3 billion worth of stem cell research grants over the next decade.
In attempts to lure the CIRM headquarters, last week several cities submitted strong proposals rich with enticements that include free office space, foundation grants, discounted rental cars, hotel rooms for guests and even private jets.
In fact, the geographic location of CIRM's headquarters should have no influence on where the research dollars are spent. Rather, these cities are looking for the prestige, the money associated with conferences and the generation of other investments that the CIRM headquarters will spark.
On March 12, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the "leaders of the stem cell effort said they will go wherever they get the best deal." But the selection committee needs to look beyond the best monetary and in-kind offers, which every aspiring headquarters has offered forth. To realize its potential, the CIRM headquarters must sit squarely at the junction of innovation and scientific discovery, in an electric environment where great ideas arc between individuals and between institutions.
San Diego – alone among the competitors – boasts unparalleled strengths in this regard.
Every city on the list has offered subsidies ranging in the millions of dollars, but only San Diego can offer an intangible benefit, responsible for its lightning fast emergence as one of the leading biotech regions in the world, with special strength in early-stage research. Just last summer, the Milken Institute identified San Diego as "the top biotechnology cluster in the country," in its study titled America's Biotech and Life Science Clusters: San Diego's Position and Economic Contributions.
Los Angeles has offered plush offices in a downtown high-rise. San Jose suggested two possible sites, one near the airport and the other downtown, both replete with soothing fountains and fitness centers for the institute's 50 employees. San Francisco has not released details of its proposal but will face a similar dilemma regarding a geographic location for the headquarters. Even if these cities have strong biotech industries – which some do not – they lack what San Diego offers in abundance: a spectacular concentration of life sciences companies, research institutes, universities and support services that sparks creative ferment and fosters a collaborate spirit.
Without this intangible, San Diego would have been hard pressed to emerge as the nation's top biotech cluster in little more than two decades.
San Diego's offering is a building overlooking the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and the azure Pacific beyond. But it's much more than a room with a view. The institute's proposed new San Diego headquarters are surrounded by hundreds of biotechnology companies, the Scripps Research Institute, the Salk Institute, the Burnham Institute, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, the Neuroscience Research Institute, the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, the University of California San Diego, and Pfizer's La Jolla campus, among others.
This interconnectedness has created a life sciences community unlike any other in the world. And its distinguishing features include collegiality and collaboration. As we all know, competition is good. But results are better when rivalry is tempered with cooperation and combined with the attitude that making a breakthrough scientific discovery is more important than personal gain or glory. This is what distinguishes San Diego's life sciences community from any other in the world.
And this rare quality is what makes San Diego the best, most productive site for the CIRM headquarters.
- Fleming and Royston are founding managing members of Forward Ventures, a San Diego-based life sciences venture capital fund. Royston is the former chief executive officer of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center and former faculty member of the UCSD Cancer Center. Fleming is a former president of the Biotech Ventures Investors Group.
Q&A Stem cell research
Robert Klein, author of Proposition 71 John Reed, president, Burnham Institute
Klein wrote Proposition 71, an initiative passed in November to allocate $3 billion to stem cell research in California. The president of a real estate related company, Klein has a son diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and a mother with Alzheimer's. He is now chairman of the initiative-spawned California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Reed, a medical doctor and biomedical researcher, is president of the San Diego-based Burnham Institute. Reed is a member of the oversight committee for the new organization. They were interviewed March 10 by members of the Union-Tribune's editorial board...
Calif. high court tosses two lawsuits against stem cell agency
By Paul Elias
March 23, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO – The California Supreme Court on Wednesday tossed out two lawsuits that sought to eliminate the state's newly created $3 billion stem cell research agency.
The high court refused to hear the two cases with little comment. But the court did say its unanimous ruling doesn't prevent the lawsuits from being refiled in a trial court, which could still spell trouble for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
The two lawsuits were filed directly with the Supreme Court last month by conservative public interest groups with ties to Christian organizations. The lawsuits sought to invalidate Proposition 71, which was passed in November and created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
"We would have preferred for the California Supreme Court to rule on this litigation, but the institute will now consider its option and take prompt action on an alternative plan," Bob Klein, chairman of the committee that oversees the agency, said in a prepared statement. He didn't offer any details of what the "alternative plan" may be.
Agency officials and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer had said the agency couldn't sell bonds to finance research grants as long as the lawsuits were pending in the Supreme Court. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they're not sure what effect their lawsuits would have on the agency's bond-selling abilities if refiled in a lower court, but said it appears it could hamper the agency.
Lawyers representing plaintiffs in both lawsuits said they will probably refile.
"It's almost an absolute certainty that it will be filed in Superior Court," said David Llewellyn, a Sacramento attorney representing the newly created nonprofit called Californians for Public Accountability and Ethical Science, which filed one of the lawsuits.
Llewellyn said the groups took the unusual legal step of filing directly with the Supreme Court in hopes of getting a swift resolution. He said the court's ruling "wasn't unexpected."
Llewellyn's lawsuit alleged that it was illegal to exempt members of the institute from some government conflict-of-interest laws, as Proposition 71 allows. The other lawsuit alleged that the committee that oversees the agency violates state law because it doles out public funds but isn't governed exclusively by the state government.
Stem cell restrictions may be eased
April 3, 2005
America just witnessed a collision among religion, politics and science with the end-of-life struggle of Terri Schiavo between members of her family. These same forces have been at play with abortion and stem cell research, and the debate over Schiavo likely will affect the political future of both these contentious issues.
While American public opinion on the central issues of the abortion debate has changed little over the past decade, there has been a dramatic shift on stem cell research, which only in recent years has become a political issue. Some public opinion polls show a doubling of support for stem cell research within the past three years. A recent survey conducted for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine shows that more than 66 percent of Americans support the research. A Harris poll taken just before the November 2004 election showed even greater support. Some political observers point to the success of California's Proposition 71 in November as another sign of the growing public support for the research, which one day may lead to cures for such degenerative diseases as Alzheimer's, diabetes, severe burns or spinal cord injuries.
It should come as little surprise, then, that leaders in the House of Representatives recently relented and decided to allow a vote on a bill in support of loosening the restrictions placed on stem cell research by President Bush in 2001. Under pressure from some on the religious right, the president said then that federal funding for research would be limited to 60 or so stem cell lines already in existence. Since then, researchers have said only about 20 of those lines are actually available and that some of them are contaminated. Researchers and advocates for victims of diseases have been pushing for a relaxation of the restriction.
As support for easing the restrictions has increased among the public, it also has increased in Congress. Last year, 206 members of the House, including 31 Republicans and many opposed to abortion, asked the president to reconsider his decision. So did 58 senators. Some who follow the issue believe there are enough votes in both houses to pass a bill easing restrictions on research.
The bill the House is likely to consider within the next few months already has 183 cosponsors. It would allow researchers to use federal funds to study newer stem cell lines derived from embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. It would not allow for the use of embryos from cloning or other means.
Even with widespread support, the White House says President Bush still believes the restrictions are appropriate and that he likely would veto a bill to override the federal funding ban.
It is clear from researchers that the existing lines are insufficient. The president's restrictions are causing money and researchers to go overseas. He should consider the growing public support for research that has so much potential for easing the suffering of millions.
Boston Globe's Gareth Cook wins Pulitzer prize in explanatory journalism for a series of articles about stem cell research.
The stories nominated for Explanatory Journalism prize here.
"Harvard University will soon launch a multimillion-dollar center to grow and study human embryonic stem cells, in what could be the largest American effort yet to circumvent the Bush administration's tight restrictions on the controversial research."
From political action, to research news, the Boston Globe has an extensive stem cell news roundup here.
If you want to increase your awareness of the current debate over stem cell research these links are a good place to start.