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Message 96152 - Posted: 8 Apr 2005, 1:07:42 UTC

Stem cell panel facing allegations of conflict

By Terri Somers

April 7, 2005

Conflict-of-interest allegations already are flying against the committee overseeing California's $3 billion stem cell initiative even though the group isn't close to giving out a dime.

The Center for Genetics and Society, an advocacy group, said yesterday that seven of the committee's 29 members have "significant business connections with companies connected with stem cell research."

The center said committee members should be free of ties to the biotechnology industry to erase the specter of possible conflict. Leaders of the stem cell effort said that would be overkill.

"The center wants to remove any possibility for the occasion of conflict and not just the conflict itself, which is unreasonable," said the committee's vice chairman, Dr. Edward Penhoet, a former biotech executive. "It could disqualify people who are competent to make wise decisions about how this is all done."

To meet the center's proposed requirements, Penhoet and other committee members would have to divest themselves of stock acquired over long careers and appointments to the companies' boards.

In addition to Penhoet, the members who allegedly have conflicts include the chief executive of a San Diego biotechnology company and the head of the Burnham Institute in La Jolla.

"The proposed policy says that whenever there is a conflict, or the potential for one, the committee member is to recuse himself or herself," said Marcy Darnovsky, the center's associate executive director. "Our concern is that there really is no way of ensuring that takes place. It's another one of these 'trust us to do the right thing' situations."

The oversight committee plans to discuss conflict-of-interest policies for itself and the staff of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which it will govern, at a meeting today in Los Angeles. The policies follow the state conflict-of-interest law by which all elected and appointed officials must abide, Penhoet said.

The state's Political Reform Act requires public officials to file financial disclosure forms that are open to public scrutiny and to recuse themselves from participating in any action that could result in a personal gain.

Oversight committee spokeswoman Fiona Hutton questioned why the Center for Genetics and Society wasn't working to change that law rather than obstructing the work of the committee.

The committee's conflict-of-interest policies also appear to be similar to policies used by nonprofit organizations that award millions of dollars of research grants annually, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

But those foundations are supported by donors, who choose to give money, Darnovsky said. If the donors have a concern about conflicts of interest, they can look into the policies and choose to withhold their funds if they are not satisfied, she said.

The state's stem cell initiative, known as Proposition 71, is funded with taxpayer dollars. Under the initiative, researchers and biotechnology executives were required to be among the people appointed to the oversight committee by the state's constitutional officers.

"At a national level, concerns have recently deepened about conflicts of interest within public agencies responsible for various aspects of biomedical research and regulatory oversight," the center said in a report, referring to controversy involving the National Institutes of Health.

"Unfortunately, last November's Proposition 71 . . . built conflicts of interest into the structure of the new (California) agency," the report said.

Robert Klein, an author of Proposition 71 and chairman of the oversight committee, has said the idea behind the alleged built-in conflicts was that biotechnology executives understand what it takes to get a discovery out of the lab and through the commercial process.

Penhoet was nominated for his post by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because of his biotechnology background. Penhoet is co-founder of the Bay Area biotechnology company Chiron and also served as dean of the University of California Berkeley's School of Public Health.

The center points out that Penhoet is still a member of Chiron's board of directors and that "several years ago the company participated in stem cell research." It says another conflict for Penhoet can be found in his ties to Renovis. That South San Francisco company, which Penhoet founded, has a licensing agreement with the drug company AstraZeneca, "which uses stem cells in their research programs," the center said.

Penhoet, who now works as president of the nonprofit Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, said he agreed that "it is not appropriate as vice chair of the committee to hold stock in a stem cell company." But he said he doesn't think Chiron qualifies as a "stem cell company."

He also said Zymogenetics, another company to which he is linked, is not a stem cell company. It is based in Seattle, making it ineligible for the initiative's grants.

Penhoet said the committee is expected to discuss today just what constitutes a stem cell company and how much of a company's budget must be vested in the technology to be considered one.

"I will be happy to conform to what the group decides as a whole," he said.

He called the center's linking him to AstraZeneca through Renovis very weak. Renovis is not based in California and therefore not eligible for money from the stem cell initiative. Additionally, Penhoet said, Renovis' collaboration with AstraZeneca, a foreign company, involves a treatment for strokes that has nothing to do with stem cells.

Among the other committee members identified as having personal ties to stem cell research is Tina Nova, the chief executive of San Diego-based Genoptix. The center says Genoptix "develops lasers applicable in stem cell isolation."

Nova said that's wrong.

The laser referred to by the center was developed by Genoptix, but Nova said the technology has since been sold to another company. And its use in stem cells was only a possibility, she said.

"Genoptix is involved in clinical diagnostics 100 percent now. It is not a stem cell company," Nova said. "There is no conflict of interest. I would not have taken the position."

Oversight committee member Dr. John Reed, head of the Burnham Institute, could not be reached yesterday to address what the center says are his ties to commercial stem cell research.

Penhoet said committee members should not be expected to divest all ties to biotechnology companies that are not involved in stem cell research based on concerns that these companies may someday be involved in the science or may benefit from basic science that comes out of Proposition 71.

He noted that he and other committee members are working without compensation.

"I'm spending an enormous amount of time and effort purely in the public interest," he said. "I'm not willing to sacrifice the entire rest of my life, which has been in the biotech world, because it doesn't make any sense."
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Message 96470 - Posted: 9 Apr 2005, 4:08:25 UTC

Stem cell panel adopts interim financial rules
Conflict-of-interest session stirs up heated comments

By Terri Somers

April 8, 2005

LOS ANGELES – Hoping to eliminate any perceptions of personal financial benefit from the state's $3 billion stem cell initiative, the committee that will distribute the funds adopted interim conflict-of-interest policies yesterday.

Generally, the committee and staff members of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which will implement the initiative, are now required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest they might have.

Committee members and institute staff also must refrain from participating in discussions that could benefit them or their family financially. There also are rules prohibiting them from taking gifts from anyone who might lobby the oversight committee or apply for grants.

The committee expects to fine-tune the policies in coming months and will include changes suggested by the public, including many discussed yesterday during a dizzying exchange at the oversight committee's monthly meeting in Los Angeles.

Institute President Zach Hall said it is important to have at least interim policies so the committee can begin giving money to researchers. The goal is to make the first grants, which will be for the training of scientists, in September.

There will be future hearings where the public can comment on the policies.

Even before the policies were approved unanimously, they came under fire from the Center for Genetics and Society, an Oakland advocacy group that said Wednesday that several committee members have ties to the biotech industry that could create conflicts of interest.

But some conflicts of interest are unavoidable because Proposition 71 required state constitutional officers to appoint biotechnology executives, scientists and patient advocates to the oversight committee.

Biotechnology companies eventually could profit from discoveries that could result from the research. The scientists work at institutes that will apply for grant money, and some may want to be involved in some of the research. The patient advocates push for research into diseases from which their loved ones suffer.

Just being on the oversight committee can be seen as a conflict by giving an advantage to committee members and the institutions for which they work, said Dr. Phyllis Presciado, a patient advocate on the committee.

"We are taking information back to our organizations," Presciado said. "We know what's going on. So there is an advantage."

But to make the conflict of interest standards too strict could inhibit the research that the initiative was designed to support, some board members said.

David Baltimore, a Nobel Laureate who is a researcher at the California Institute of Technology, said he thought he would resign from the committee if the policies got so tough that they might some day keep him from participating in what he thought was compelling science.

Some Californians still want the state Legislature to have some control over the project.

People's Advocate, a taxpayer group, yesterday fired its second legal volley against the oversight committee and the institute, alleging in a lawsuit in state Superior Court that the stem cell initiative is unconstitutional because it gives the committee and not the Legislature control over the $3 billion expenditure of taxpayer funds.

The group made the same arguments in a suit it filed directly with the state Supreme Court last month, hoping that it would expedite the resolution. But the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

"We don't oppose stem cell research," said Ted Costa, the organization's chief executive officer. "But we oppose the total lack of public oversight of how taxpayer money is spent."

Robert Klein, chairman of the oversight committee, called the lawsuit an attempt by people who do not support stem cell research to obstruct the mandate given by Californians who approved the initiative.

The state could not sell bonds to fund the stem cell initiative while there is a pending lawsuit questioning its constitutionality.
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Message 98499 - Posted: 14 Apr 2005, 1:15:55 UTC

San Diego in running for stem cell institute
City's third-place ranking upsets business boosters

By Terri Somers

April 13, 2005

San Diego was selected as one of four finalists in the competition to become home to California's new stem cell institute, but its proposal placed third in a preliminary ranking of the contenders.

A six-member team that reviewed 10 proposals submitted for the site of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine ranked San Francisco as the best location, followed by Sacramento, San Diego and Emeryville.

Although the ranking might not play into the final site selection, which is expected to be announced at a meeting May 6, San Diego's placement had local business boosters fuming.

"While we are delighted to have been selected as a finalist we are mystified by San Diego's rankings in certain categories," San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. President Julie Meier Wright wrote in a letter sent yesterday to Robert Klein, chairman of the committee that will oversee the institute.

"There is no other community that can match our concentration of biomedical personnel and research institutes, as we clearly noted in the proposal," Wright said.

The number of residents employed in life sciences and the number of research institutions were among the factors considered and weighed by the committee, which included three employees of the state Department of General Services and three employees of the institute.

The review team disqualified six cities' proposals, including those from Los Angeles and San Jose, for failing to meet the bid's requirements.

Today, a committee charged with selecting the best site and a runner-up is scheduled to hold the first of three meetings to discuss the proposals. It can accept, alter or ignore the assessment and analysis of the six-member team that whittled the applications down to the short list.

The meeting, which will be a teleconference conducted at sites across the state, is expected to be contentious. Representatives of the finalist cities and the disqualified ones are expected to lobby the site-search committee.

Proposition 71, the stem cell initiative, allocates $300 million annually to stem cell research over the next decade. Although the stem cell institute is expected to serve only as the headquarters for the 50 people who will administer the research grants, cities are clamoring to host it because of the prestige associated with the historic initiative.

San Diego's 60-plus-page proposal includes photos of 17,000 square feet of rent-free office space on Torrey Pines Road and the surrounding area, as well as maps showing the concentration of research institutes and biotechnology companies on Torrey Pines Mesa.

"We request that you not accept the scores offered by staff," Wright wrote in her letter to Klein. She further asked that the scoring system be fully explained to make the process transparent to the public.

The San Diego business boosters who put together the city's proposal are particularly upset with how their bid fared when judged on the number of life-science professionals living and working within 45 minutes of the proposed site and the number of academic and research institutions.

On a scale of zero to 25, San Diego scored 11 points when judged on the number of professionals working within 45 minutes of the site it proposed on Torrey Pines Road. San Francisco's proposal scored a 25. And Emeryville scored a 23.

Walter Barnes, an employee of the State Controller's Office temporarily assigned to work with the stem cell institute, said the review team used the number cited in each city's proposal.

San Francisco's proposal said 85,000 life-science professionals are employed within 45 minutes of its proposed site. San Diego's proposal said 39,000 life-science employees work within 45 minutes of its proposed site, which is across the street from Torrey Pines Golf Course.

But there were no guidelines issued listing what professionals could be counted in the tally. For instance, the bid guidelines do not say whether biomedical personnel can include hospital employees.

"If you cast your net wide enough, you can get a bigger number," Wright said in an interview last night.

Barnes said the review team did consider how far each city cast its net before scoring the proposals.

Wright said last night that when the site-selection committee was preparing to solicit proposals for the headquarters, it noted that the closer that the concentration of professionals worked to the proposed headquarters site, the better. However, she said, that doesn't seem to be reflected in the grading.

"Sixty-one percent of the industry professionals – approximately 24,000 people – are located within a four-mile radius of our proposed site," Wright said in her letter.

San Francisco's proposal said that the 25 companies located closest to its proposed headquarters site employ 18,190 people. It attributes the 85,000 professional number to Bay Bio, the area's biotech trade group.

Joe Panetta, president of the San Diego trade group Biocom, said he was surprised with how "generous" the review team was in judging the research institutions in San Francisco and Emeryville.

"It's pretty clear to those of us in biotech that when it comes to research, all studies show San Diego is out in front," Panetta said. The city's proposal lists 21 research facilities in the area.

Based on the enthusiasm of the cities that made proposals, which included everything from 10 years free rent to concert tickets and access to a private jet, Barnes said the review team expected there would be great disappointment when the findings were announced.

He also acknowledged that there has been speculation that San Francisco, or another city in the Bay Area, probably would be selected as host to the headquarters because the region has more biotechnology companies and venture capital and because Klein lives there.

However, Barnes said the review team included three state employees, not including himself.

"We went into a room by ourselves and ignored that and put forth the best decision we could make using objective information that was in the bids," Barnes said.

Before reaching a final decision, the site selection committee will visit each site and listen to a final sales pitch from the area teams.

"That's an opportunity to us to have a fresh start," said Biocom's Panetta. "We made a point in our proposal to talk about the community support and collaboration that San Diego's biotech community is known for. There doesn't seem to be anything in the grading to reflect that, so we look forward to the site visit as an opportunity to emphasize that quality."

A panel ranked the cities in the running to host the state's stem cell institute by awarding points (out of a possible 200).
How the contenders scored:
San Francisco: 158
Sacramento: 133
San Diego: 116
Emeryville: 113
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Message 99006 - Posted: 15 Apr 2005, 5:47:32 UTC

Panel takes heat for institute site selection process

By Terri Somers

April 14, 2005

A committee that will select the site for California's new stem cell institute could not be swayed yesterday to reconsider proposals for putting it in Los Angeles or San Jose.

Those proposals were among six that were disqualified this week because they didn't meet bid requirements. However, officials from those cities had hoped to get them considered again.

Members of the eight-person site selection committee agreed at a meeting yesterday that they want to develop a grading system to help select the best of the four finalists, including San Diego. And they want the system in place before they visit the four sites this month.

San Diego officials have criticized a preliminary scoring system used by a six-member team that reviewed all 10 submitted proposals, but committee members did not reach a decision on whether those scores should be a factor in the final selection.

In those rankings, which are based on a perfect score of 200 points, San Francisco's proposal scored highest with 158, followed by Sacramento's 133, San Diego's 116 and Emeryville's 113.

San Diego business boosters took issue with how their proposal was graded in areas. They want the grading thrown out and a fresh judging system put in place.

Committee member Dr. Claire Pomeroy, associate dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, said it would be hard for any city to catch up to San Francisco if the current grades were not tossed out.

Further discussion of the grading system was postponed until an April 25 meeting.

The headquarters of the stem cell institute will employ no more than 50 people who will oversee about $300 million annually in grants. Cities are clamoring to host the institute because of the prestige it will bring and the potential to attract businesses and investment dollars.

The six disqualified proposals were missing items such as letters from a government entity stating it guarantees everything offered in the proposal.

Representatives of San Jose and Los Angeles told the committee that all the required information was in their bids and tried to show the site search committee where information could be found. But both the review team and the site search committee were unswayed.

"That six proposals failed to make the cut because of a technicality is a tragedy," said former Paramount Pictures Chairwoman Sherry Lansing, a member of the search committee.

But committee member Dr. Michael Friedman, who is president of the City of Hope in Los Angeles, said it is important to stick to the requirements. "Those of us who have had an opportunity to apply for National Institute of Health research grants have suffered the ill effect of having left something out," Friedman said.

The institute will be soliciting many research grant proposals, he said, so it is important to set an example when selecting a headquarters.
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Message 99418 - Posted: 16 Apr 2005, 1:48:08 UTC

Group calls for federal program to oversee the use of cord blood

By Reed Abelson

April 15, 2005

Congress' main medical advisory group called yesterday for a new federal program to oversee and promote the use of umbilical cord blood, a natural byproduct of healthy childbirths, for medical treatment.

Collected with the donor mother's permission, stem cells from umbilical cords represent a promising therapy for the thousands of people with leukemia, lymphoma and other diseases who cannot currently undergo bone-marrow transplants because they cannot find the right match. About 600 cord-blood transplants have been performed in the United States in recent years.

But broader use of the technique has been impeded by a limited supply of donor blood and doctors' difficulties in finding compatible blood types among the 50,000 or so units now scattered among about 20 cord-blood banks around the country.

"This emerging field of therapy needs a coordinated center," said Kristine M. Gebbie, an associate professor of nursing at Columbia University, who was the chairwoman of the committee that examined the issue for the congressional advisory group, the Institute of Medicine.

While some banks allow parents to store the blood privately for their own families' use, experts see the need for a much larger public supply of cord-blood units. Congress allocated $10 million last year toward this cord-blood effort, and another $10 million should follow this year.

In its report recommending how the cord-blood effort should take place, the Institute of Medicine concluded that at least 100,000 more units are needed, especially to help provide matches for ethnic and racial minorities who have the most difficult time finding them. Because the collection and preparation of the blood is so expensive, about $1,100 per unit, many of the banks do not have enough money for the effort. The institute also concluded that much more needed to be done to track the results of the transplants taking place so that doctors and patients would have better information about how to proceed.

Since conflicts between two major players in the field have delayed the spending of the federal money already approved, Congress asked the institute to study the matter last year. It would be up to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to act upon those recommendations. Calls to the agency yesterday were not returned.

The field's competing players are the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit group in Minneapolis that oversees the main registry of blood and marrow donors, which wants to expand its authority. Its rival, the New York Blood Center, a nonprofit blood bank, wanted the government to finance the blood banks directly.

The institute decided neither group's proposed approach was exactly the right one.
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Message 102043 - Posted: 21 Apr 2005, 1:42:15 UTC
Last modified: 28 Nov 2006, 4:10:42 UTC

April 20, 2005

Stemming the slide

Injected into the heart, stem cells may pump new life into patients with cardiovascular disease

SKELETAL TISSUE: Stem cells found in skeletal tissue are known as "satellite cells." They serve to churn out mature skeletal muscle cells.
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Message 102044 - Posted: 21 Apr 2005, 1:47:53 UTC - in response to Message 102043.  

I Volunteer!
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Message 102112 - Posted: 21 Apr 2005, 5:54:38 UTC - in response to Message 102043.  

Great article(s) Misfit. Keep it up!!!

The use of adult stem cells to cure heart disease has already be done and proven to work 4 years ago by several doctors from Texas to Germany. This treatment was also used to cure systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Captain Avatar as to your willingness to volunteer, I recommend that you don’t hold your breath. I surmise that the pharmaceutical industry will do everything in its power to suppress this treatment.


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Message 102312 - Posted: 22 Apr 2005, 0:32:24 UTC - in response to Message 102112.  

San Diego boosters contend judging for site unfair

By Terri Somers

April 21, 2005

The initial judging of San Diego's proposal for the headquarters of California's new stem cell institute was unfair, local business boosters contend in a letter to the people who will choose the site.

The judging, done by the staff of the institute, ranked San Diego third among four finalists to become the headquarters city of the agency that will oversee $3 billion in stem cell grants. San Francisco ranked first, Sacramento second and Emeryville fourth.

But the team that assembled San Diego's proposal says the judges unjustly and sometimes inexplicably favored first-ranked San Francisco in several categories.

For instance, San Francisco gained points by claiming to be in a region with 85,000 biomedical professionals. But the proposal appears to include 13 counties in that region, from Mendocino County in the north to Monterey County in the south, and east to the Sacramento County line.

San Diego, however, scored lower because its proposal counted 39,000 biomedical professionals in the one-county region.

The proposal guidelines called for cities to count only workers within a 45-minute drive of the headquarters site, San Diego's boosters pointed out.

They sent a letter to the site selection committee Tuesday night, suggesting new guidelines for re-evaluating the four proposals that the San Diegans say would be more in tune with the request sent out by the state.

The site committee also received feedback letters from business boosters from the three other cities also in the running to host the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said Nicole Pagano, a spokeswoman for the institute.

The letters should be posted on the institute's Web site today, and the institute staff is expected to complete an analysis of all four by Friday, Pagano said.

The site search committee will meet Monday to decide whether to accept the preliminary evaluations of each site, or toss them and start again with revised guidelines.

The San Diego group suggested that rather than comparatively judging elements of the four finalists' proposals, the search committee might want to judge them against the minimum standards outlined in the solicitation for bids.

That solicitation required only that the headquarters site be in a region that employed more than 24,000 biomedical professionals.

Members of the site search committee thought that specification would ensure a talented work pool, and also help in recruiting a president for the institute.

The search committee members did not discuss whether they thought a larger cluster of biomedical professionals would make a better site. The San Francisco Bay Area is undeniably the state's largest region of biomedical professionals.

The decision to judge the clusters on size was made by a six-member review team comprised of three staffers from the state Department of General Services, which typically reviews bids for state work, and three staffers of the fledgling stem cell institute.

The team made the region's size 30 percent of the overall score on which each proposal would be judged.

In its previous meetings, members of the site search committee members also said they wanted the proposals to be creative and show efforts by the community to support the institute and help offset costs, said Julie Meier Wright, president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

"Written into San Diego's proposal is all sorts of free in-kind support – marketing, legal, accounting, building improvements – designed to help this institute get out of the box quickly and position it for success," Meier Wright said. "And it's not counted or scored anywhere. And I don't understand why, since it is the very kind of thing they were asking for."

The San Diego letter also suggests that the search committee give great weight to the three-hour visits members will make to each proposed site beginning next week.

The San Diego boosters further suggested that the search committee judge the sites based on whether they get the sense they are in the middle of a biomedical hub, suitable for a world-class research institute.

They are hoping that is exactly what the eight committee members will sense when they tour the proposed site on Torrey Pines Road, within walking distance of research institutes that include the Salk, Burnham and Scripps institutes and UCSD.

Cities are clamoring to host the headquarters because of the prestige it will lend to attracting more investment dollars. In addition to the four finalists, six proposals were thrown out because they failed to meet minimum requirements.

On May 2, the site search committee is scheduled to pick a favorite site and a runner-up. On May 6, the 29-member committee overseeing the state's $3 billion stem cell initiative is scheduled to select the winner.

The contentious nature of the site selection escalated further yesterday, with business boosters from the Bay Area calling for the resignation of Dr. John Reed from the stem cell oversight committee and the site search committee.

Reed, who is president of the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, was criticized by the Bay Area Council and the Bay Area Economic Forum for a statement he made to the media in which he compared San Diego's traffic, quality of living and weather favorably to that in the Bay Area.

In a statement issued yesterday, the two Bay Area business groups called Reed biased, and urged him to recant his statements or leave the stem cell committee.

Reed responded by releasing his own statement.

"This all began with a misquote," he said. "I have maintained, and will continue to maintain, objectivity during this process to identify the best permanent site for furthering scientific research to benefit the people of California."

Anticipating there might be at least the perception of partiality by those selecting the headquarters site, the 29-member oversight committee took care to appoint people from several regions of the state to the site search committee.

The site search committee members seem also to recognize that its members may have a fondness for the areas in which they live and work. At a meeting last week, former Paramount Pictures head Sherry Lansing referred to Los Angeles's failed headquarters proposal as "our proposal."

She quickly apologized and corrected herself. Other committee members chuckled.
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Message 104281 - Posted: 27 Apr 2005, 0:20:16 UTC

S.D. suffers a setback in facility bid
Scoring system favors San Francisco proposal

By Terri Somers

April 26, 2005

San Diego's chances of becoming home to the state's new stem cell institute suffered a setback yesterday when a site selection committee adopted criteria that heavily favor San Francisco.

Members decided yesterday that their non-binding recommendation to the committee overseeing the stem cell effort will be based largely on preliminary scoring of proposals that put San Francisco far ahead of any other city.

The final evaluation will place less emphasis on scores from visits the committee will make this weekend to the cities, which also include Sacramento and Emeryville.

That came as a disappointment to San Diego business boosters who helped write the city's proposal.

Several San Diego boosters left the site search committee meeting disgusted with the criteria that was adopted, and pessimistic about the city's chances to ultimately be selected as the host site.

"I think this is completely inappropriate," said Duane Roth, president of UCSD Connect.

Based on the criteria, Roth said a majority of the scoring that will be used to identify the top contender has been done by people who have not actually seen the proposed sites, and who are not members of the appointed site search committee.

Joe Panetta, president of Biocom, the San Diego region's biotech trade group, agreed.

"The real injustice here is that the scoring San Francisco received, so much higher than the rest, would lead you to believe the site is in the center of a thriving biotech community," Panetta said.

"In reality, there is no biotech community near that facility," he said.

San Francisco's proposed site is in Mission Bay, a redevelopment project built to attract biotechnology. To date, the project has not attracted much business at all, Panetta said.

San Diego, one of 10 cities that submitted proposals for hosting the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, offered up office space on North Torrey Pines Road, within walking distance of research institutions that include UCSD and the Burnham, Scripps and Salk institutes.

Although the institute will employ no more than 50 people, cities want to host it because of the prestige it would bring when trying to attract investors. The institute will be the administrative home of the agency that will distribute $300 million annually in stem cell research grants.

A six-person review panel, comprised of three staffers from the state Department of General Services and three from the institute, read all the proposals and came up with the initial scores. The review team disqualified six cities' proposals, including those from Los Angeles and San Jose, for failing to meet the requirements.

On a scale of 200 points, the review team ranked San Francisco's proposal tops, followed by Sacramento, San Diego and Emeryville. All four cities found something to complain about in the scoring matrix.

San Diego business boosters said the scoring unfairly and inexplicably favored San Francisco in several areas.

Last week the review team revised the scores based on suggestions by all four cities. But the changes did nothing to alter the ranking.

Out of 200 points, San Francisco received 158, Sacramento 135, San Diego 127 and Emeryville 119.

San Francisco scored more than a dozen points above all other proposals because it claimed to have 85,000 biomedical professionals working in the Bay Area. It defined the Bay Area as 13 counties.

San Diego claimed 39,000 biomedical professionals working within 45 minutes of the proposed institute site on North Torrey Pines Road.

The next round of scoring will occur when members of the site search committee visit each city and tour the proposed sites. Those visits begin Friday and run through the weekend.

Yesterday the site search committee adopted a 90-point scoring matrix to use when they begin visiting the sites on Friday.

The committee also voted, although not unanimously, to combine the first and second rounds of scoring to determine the site it would recommend and a runner-up.

The site search committee agreed yesterday to present both sets of scores to the 29-member oversight committee that will make the final decision. The site committee will make recommendations for a first choice and a runner-up site.

The oversight committee, which includes the site committee members, is scheduled to pick the host city at a meeting May 6 in Fresno.

Burnham Institute President John Reed, who is a member of the site search committee, said the upcoming site visits should be given the most weight in determining where the institute will go.

The site visits, he said, will enable members to see whether the proposals are in reality what is suggested on paper.

And then there were the mathematical implications.

Combining the scores gives San Francisco's proposal better odds at being the top contender.

Even if San Diego were to score a perfect 90 on the site visit, San Francisco would only have to score a 59 to remain the top contender, Jane Signagio-Cox from the San Diego Regional Economic Development Council pointed out.

The search committee voted 4-1 to combine the two score sheets to determine the top rated site and a runner-up.

Reed, who said he did not want the two scores combined, left the meeting before the vote because it was running late. Dr. Claire Pomeroy, from UC Davis, voted against combining scores.

Dr. Richard Murphy, president of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, voted in favor of combining scores. He participated in the meeting by phone from Mexico and could not be reached for comment.

Reed did have success suggesting changes to a preliminary score sheet put together in anticipation of the site visits.

The score sheet allows committee members to consider a site's layout; the incentives being offered by the community; its proximity to research institutions and the quality and proximity of conference facilities and the quality of the work setting.

The committee agreed with Reed to add another category, worth an additional 30 points, that would allow committee members to score sites based on their overall impression of a location.
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Message 104596 - Posted: 27 Apr 2005, 19:44:46 UTC
Last modified: 27 Apr 2005, 19:49:02 UTC

Citing a lack of leadership by the federal government,
the National Academy of Sciences
proposed ethical guidelines yesterday for research
with human embryonic stem cells.

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Message 104691 - Posted: 28 Apr 2005, 1:36:16 UTC

Scientists issue stem cell guidelines, say feds have failed


April 27, 2005

The country's premier scientific organization issued a sweeping set of guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research yesterday, declaring that the federal government has failed to provide adequate ethical standards for a booming, controversial field.

Scientists believe the research holds high promise for treating a wide range of diseases by enabling new organs to be grown to replace damaged ones. But embryonic stem cell research has been intensely controversial because it cannot be done without destroying human embryos, which critics contend is equivalent to taking a human life.

Congress has restricted the research, and President Bush declared in 2001 that the government would pay for research using only the human embryonic stem cells that had been created at that point. As a result, the government has not played its usual role of promoting novel research and devising regulations accepted by all players.

The National Academy of Sciences, a self-elected group of leading scientists that advises the government, yesterday recommended setting up a system of local and national committees for reviewing stem cell research. It also addressed a new set of ethical problems raised by creating chimeras, organisms composed of two kinds of cells, and in this case, animals that include human cells.

The academy hopes its proposals, which are nonbinding, will be accepted in the private and public sectors, particularly in states such as California that are creating ambitious stem cell programs. The report is also likely to influence debate in Congress, where some lawmakers wish to allow new human stem cell lines to be derived and others are seeking tighter restrictions.

Heightened and universal oversight "is essential to assure the public that such research is being conducted in an ethical manner," said the academy's committee, which was led by Richard Hynes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jonathan Moreno of the University of Virginia.

The new report paves the way for research involving chimeric animals that have been seeded with human cells. The purpose of such experiments is not to create some nightmarish menagerie of half-human animals, but simply to test first in animals the human organs that could be grown from the embryonic stem cells.

Foreseeing that such research will be required for tests of effectiveness and safety, the academy said most chimeras should be permitted. But it places certain types of experiments out of bounds, at least for now. Those involve inserting human embryonic stem cells into an early human embryo, a technically promising method of genetic engineering, or into apes and monkeys.

The academy's guidelines would impose limits on three kinds of experiments that involve incorporating human embryonic stem cells into animals. Undesired consequences might follow if human cells became incorporated into either the sex cells or the brain of the experimental animals.

In the first case, there is a remote possibility that an animal with eggs made of human cells might mate with an animal bearing human sperm. To avoid any human conception in such unthinkable circumstances, the academy advises that no chimeric animals be allowed to mate.

A second possible hazard is that the human embryonic stem cells might generate all or most of an animal's brain, leading to the possibility of a human mind imprisoned in an animal's body. Though neuroscientists consider this very unlikely, it cannot yet be ruled out, particularly with animals closely related to people, such as monkeys and apes. The academy advises that human embryonic stem cells should not be injected into the embryos of nonhuman primates for the time being.

Third, the academy said, human embryos should not be grown in culture for more than 14 days, the time when the first hints of a nervous system appear.

The academy advised that all institutions conducting human embryonic stem cell research should set up local committees, including experts and members of the public, to review all experiments. A national committee should be formed to update regulations and relax the constraints if warranted by new evidence. The academy also recommended that donors should not be paid, including even women who donate unfertilized eggs.

The academy's guidelines have no binding force, yet could be widely followed if adopted by leading institutions, funding agencies and journals. Scientists at Rockefeller University, the La Jolla-based Burnham Institute and Stanford University said the academy's rules are similar to their in-house versions and probably can be adopted with ease.

"It relieves a lot of pressure on the scientist in the absence of any advice or policy," said Ali Brivanlou, a researcher at Rockefeller University who has been waiting for guidance about an experiment with human embryonic stem cells.

The system of scientific self-regulation proposed by the academy is modeled after the approach to recombinant DNA research, a technique for transferring genes between organisms which seemed at first to hold possible hazards. In that case, scientists themselves first drew attention to the hazards and in 1975 held a conference that recommended oversight. This was then put into practice by the National Institutes of Health, the principal federal supporter of biomedical research, and the NIH's guidelines were voluntarily followed by the private sector.

The agency has been prevented from playing a similar role with human embryonic stem cells because of Bush administration policy and a congressional ban on using federal funds for research in which a human embryo is destroyed. Many scientists regret the forced absence of the NIH's leadership.

"This shows how far this country has gone toward being controlled by religious precepts rather than scientific opportunity and is a terrible omen for our being able to maintain our position as the country that leads in biomedical technology," said David Baltimore, president of the California Institute of Technology and an architect of the decisions about recombinant DNA.

Dr. Harold Varmus, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and a former director of the NIH, said the academy's proposed rules "offer what the government cannot – reasonable guidelines for the several kinds of research being conducted with various sources of nonfederal funds." Varmus said he thinks that nearly all researchers are looking for guidance and will sign on to the new rules.

Michael Werner, chief of policy for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said biotech companies are likely to adopt the academy's guidelines, at least in principle, and that they welcome oversight in this area. "What I hope the administration would see is that leading scientists in our country believe very much that this is an area of research that needs to go forward quickly and aggressively, but with proper oversight," he said.
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Message 105877 - Posted: 30 Apr 2005, 20:59:46 UTC

Genetic Mingling Mixes Human, Animal Cells

By PAUL ELIAS, AP Biotechnology Writer

April 29, 2005

On a farm about six miles outside this gambling town, Jason Chamberlain looks over a flock of about 50 smelly sheep, many of them possessing partially human livers, hearts, brains and other organs.

The University of Nevada-Reno researcher talks matter-of-factly about his plans to euthanize one of the pregnant sheep in a nearby lab. He can't wait to examine the effects of the human cells he had injected into the fetus' brain about two months ago.

"It's mice on a large scale," Chamberlain says with a shrug.

As strange as his work may sound, it falls firmly within the new ethics guidelines the influential National Academies issued this past week for stem cell research.

In fact, the Academies' report endorses research that co-mingles human and animal tissue as vital to ensuring that experimental drugs and new tissue replacement therapies are safe for people.

Doctors have transplanted pig valves into human hearts for years, and scientists have injected human cells into lab animals for even longer.

But the biological co-mingling of animal and human is now evolving into even more exotic and unsettling mixes of species, evoking the Greek myth of the monstrous chimera, which was part lion, part goat and part serpent.

In the past two years, scientists have created pigs with human blood, fused rabbit eggs with human DNA and injected human stem cells to make paralyzed mice walk.

Particularly worrisome to some scientists are the nightmare scenarios that could arise from the mixing of brain cells: What if a human mind somehow got trapped inside a sheep's head?

The "idea that human neuronal cells might participate in 'higher order' brain functions in a nonhuman animal, however unlikely that may be, raises concerns that need to be considered," the academies report warned.

In January, an informal ethics committee at Stanford University endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells. Stem cell scientist Irving Weissman said his experiment could provide unparalleled insight into how the human brain develops and how degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson's progress.

Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity. Just in case, Greely said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice's behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.

The Academies' report recommends that each institution involved in stem cell research create a formal, standing committee to specifically oversee the work, including experiments that mix human and animal cells.

Weissman, who has already created mice with 1 percent human brain cells, said he has no immediate plans to make mostly human mouse brains, but wanted to get ethical clearance in any case. A formal Stanford committee that oversees research at the university would also need to authorize the experiment.

Few human-animal hybrids are as advanced as the sheep created by another stem cell scientist, Esmail Zanjani, and his team at the University of Nevada-Reno. They want to one day turn sheep into living factories for human organs and tissues and along the way create cutting-edge lab animals to more effectively test experimental drugs.

Zanjani is most optimistic about the sheep that grow partially human livers after human stem cells are injected into them while they are still in the womb. Most of the adult sheep in his experiment contain about 10 percent human liver cells, though a few have as much as 40 percent, Zanjani said.

Because the human liver regenerates, the research raises the possibility of transplanting partial organs into people whose livers are failing.

Zanjani must first ensure no animal diseases would be passed on to patients. He also must find an efficient way to completely separate the human and sheep cells, a tough task because the human cells aren't clumped together but are rather spread throughout the sheep's liver.

Zanjani and other stem cell scientists defend their research and insist they aren't creating monsters — or anything remotely human.

"We haven't seen them act as anything but sheep," Zanjani said.

Zanjani's goals are many years from being realized.

He's also had trouble raising funds, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating the university over allegations made by another researcher that the school mishandled its research sheep. Zanjani declined to comment on that matter, and university officials have stood by their practices.

Allegations about the proper treatment of lab animals may take on strange new meanings as scientists work their way up the evolutionary chart. First, human stem cells were injected into bacteria, then mice and now sheep. Such research blurs biological divisions between species that couldn't until now be breached.

Drawing ethical boundaries that no research appears to have crossed yet, the Academies recommend a prohibition on mixing human stem cells with embryos from monkeys and other primates. But even that policy recommendation isn't tough enough for some researchers.

"The boundary is going to push further into larger animals," New York Medical College professor Stuart Newman said. "That's just asking for trouble."

Newman and anti-biotechnology activist Jeremy Rifkin have been tracking this issue for the last decade and were behind a rather creative assault on both interspecies mixing and the government's policy of patenting individual human genes and other living matter.

Years ago, the two applied for a patent for what they called a "humanzee," a hypothetical — but very possible — creation that was half human and chimp.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office finally denied their application this year, ruling that the proposed invention was too human: Constitutional prohibitions against slavery prevents the patenting of people.

Newman and Rifkin were delighted, since they never intended to create the creature and instead wanted to use their application to protest what they see as science and commerce turning people into commodities.

And that's a point, Newman warns, that stem scientists are edging closer to every day: "Once you are on the slope, you tend to move down it."
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Message 106788 - Posted: 3 May 2005, 5:52:36 UTC

S.D. makes pitch to house institute. Two finalists to be picked today; final decision Friday

By Terri Somers

May 2, 2005

San Diego's business boosters did their best yesterday to make it hard to say no to their proposal to put California's new stem cell institute on Torrey Pines Road.

They used the stunning vistas along Torrey Pines Mesa, home to the area's dense cluster of biotech companies and research institutions, and some of the most respected minds from those organizations, to try to sell the city's $12 million privately funded proposal.

San Diego is competing against three other cities to become home to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Though the institute will employ no more than 50 people, it will bring steady headlines, world attention and prestige to its host city.

After cities submitted written proposals in March, the selection process came down to a tour of each site. The San Diego boosters had three hours to make a pitch to five members of the eight-person site committee, which is scheduled to select two finalists today.

The committee visited the other contenders in San Francisco, Sacramento and Emeryville on Friday and Saturday and will announce how many points out of a possible 90 it awarded each site.

Those scores will be added to scores the institute's staff compiled after reviewing written proposals from 10 cities. San Francisco ranked first and Sacramento second from the written proposals.

Third-ranked San Diego already has made it further than cities including Los Angeles and San Jose, whose proposals were disqualified for failing to meet all of the requirements.

On Friday, the full 29-member board overseeing the state's stem cell initiative will pick the location. The board is not bound by the site committee's recommendation.

Despite San Francisco's lead, its mayor, Gavin Newsom, took a swipe at San Diego during a tour he led Friday, questioning whether the city still had a mayor.

Mayor Dick Murphy, who announced last week that he will resign July 15, responded by saying, "I'm still here." He added: "But more importantly, San Diego is so much more than one person."

San Diego's proposal for the stem cell institute, which includes 17,000 square feet of rent-free office space, brings together incentives offered by private industry, academic research institutions and city government, Murphy said.

San Diego's boosters served coffee on the balcony of the building at the proposed site overlooking the Torrey Pines Golf Course, as cyclists sped by and the Pacific sparkled in the distance.

Later, they took members of the site search committee on a charter bus tour, shuttling them past the beach at Torrey Pines State Park and through the winding mesa roads lined with research institutions, biotechnology companies and the sprawling labs of major pharmaceutical companies.

The boosters, who included representatives of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., the biotech trade group Biocom and UCSD Connect, prepared for the tour by making several dry runs with a stopwatch to see what they could cram into their allotted time.

To give the committee a sense of the dense cluster of life-science companies, the tour did not stray more than two miles from the proposed site, said Biocom President Joe Panetta, who narrated the bus tour.

"This is a city of serial entrepreneurs," said Panetta, who wore a Hawaiian-style shirt emblazoned with images of SeaWorld's Shamu, the San Diego Zoo's giant pandas and the Hotel del Coronado.

In a conference room at the Estancia Resort on Torrey Pines Road, entrepreneurs from biotechnology, academic research, venture capital and real estate talked about the collaborative atmosphere they say makes San Diego's cluster of biomedical companies and researchers the strongest.

Larry Goldstein, a Howard Hughes Institute stem cell scientist at UC San Diego, said he came here 12 years ago from Harvard and stayed because of the spirit of collaboration that he finds "really intoxicating."

He said he's worked and published with philosophers, ethicists, psychologists, clinicians, marine chemists and other cell biologists.

"That is the kind of community I find interesting," said Goldstein, who helped write and campaign for Proposition 71, last year's stem cell initiative that will allocate $300 million annually to stem cell research over the next decade. "You can recruit some of the best minds in the world if you put (the institute) here."

UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said San Diego has the expertise, the venture capital and the legal experience to move scientific discovery out of the labs at the region's research facilities and into one of the hundreds of biotechnology companies.

A slide presentation showed the committee members an aerial view of the mesa and the more than 18 research institutions within two miles of the proposed site.

Recruits to work in the new institute won't have to move here; they'll just have to change parking lots, UCSD Connect President Duane Roth said of the 39,000 life-science professionals who work within four miles of the site. Connect helps fledgling companies in the San Diego region.

"There's a reason Pfizer decided to develop an 800,000-square-foot global research and development center here," said Ivor Royston of Forward Ventures, a local venture capital firm. "There's a reason why Johnson & Johnson and Novartis decided to put their research institutes in La Jolla when they could have put them anywhere."

The site search committee members were careful yesterday not to reveal their feelings. Each site has its own characteristics and strengths, said Dr. Phyllis Preciado, a member of the search committee.
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Message 107226 - Posted: 4 May 2005, 0:46:04 UTC

San Diego still alive as site for institute. Committee's tour of cities helpful.

By Terri Somers

May 3, 2005

San Diego stayed alive yesterday in the competition to become host to the state's coveted new stem cell institute.

The city's proposal earned the most points from a search committee that toured and then scored four competing sites scattered around the state over the weekend.

But those scores were barely enough to keep the proposed facility on North Torrey Pines Road in the running.

San Diego finished third, seven-tenths of a point behind Sacramento, when the site visit scores were added to a preliminary scoring of the cities' written proposals. Because it was so close, the search committee changed its plans and advanced three proposals rather than two to the next stage.

San Diego's proposal still faces an uphill fight, as top-ranked San Francisco remained well ahead of the other cities in the overall scoring.

A final decision is expected Friday, when the three cities will present their proposals to the 29-member committee overseeing the state's $3 billion stem cell initiative.

The full committee will make the final decision on where to place the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which will be the headquarters for 50 employees who will administer $300 million annually in stem cell research grants. Since voters approved the initiative known as Proposition 71 in November, cities around the state have been clamoring to host the institute.

"There's still hope for us," said a smiling Jane Signaigo-Cox of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., one of the business-boosting groups that worked on the city's $12 million proposal.

Joe Panetta, president of the biotech trade group Biocom, said San Diego's business boosters felt vindicated by the site tour scoring because it was based on reality and done by people who are actually on the search committee.

"We were judged on what actually exists here in the community and not just by how something looks on paper," Panetta said.

San Diego boosters have complained about the preliminary scoring, which was compiled by the staff of the stem cell institute after reading only the written proposals.

San Francisco's written proposal pulled ahead from the other cities when it was given more than a dozen extra points because the city said more than 85,000 biomedical professionals lived and worked within 45 miles of the city. The San Francisco proposal included 13 counties in that area.

San Diego claimed 39,000 biomedical professionals. But the city said almost all of them live and work within four miles of the proposed site across from the Torrey Pines golf course.

Given the opportunity on Friday to tour San Francisco's proposed site across from the city's acclaimed baseball park, the search committee appeared to have reservations.

The proposed site is on the second floor, above a Borders book store and below 590 condominiums, Salk Institute President Richard Murphy noted yesterday when search committee members shared their thoughts on what they saw.

"It doesn't present the kind of facade to attract people . . . and give the institute a face to the world," said Dr. Claire Pomeroy, executive associate dean at UC Davis School of Medicine. The image is important, she said, because the headquarters is likely to be photographed and featured in publications around the world.

And Ed Penhoet, vice chairman of the 29-member oversight committee, noted that the San Francisco site, located in a neighborhood still being re-gentrified, did not have the feel of being surrounded and supported by biotech.

After visiting San Diego's proposed site, which is within two miles of numerous academic and nonprofit research institutions, biotech companies and major pharmaceutical companies, he said he had the sense of being in an area with the world's highest concentration of biomedical workers.

But not everyone was convinced it was important that the institute be within walking distance of numerous research institutes.

"I don't see the difference of being a 15-minute drive or walking several blocks to a (research) facility," said Robert Klein, chairman of the oversight committee. "In most cases, people believe a transit time of 15 to 20 minutes is highly acceptable."

Dr. John Reed, president of the Burnham Institute, disagreed.

One purpose of requiring the institute to be within an area that's home to a cluster of biomedical facilities was so the staff could benefit from the professionals working there, Reed said. During his busy day, Reed said, it makes a lot of difference whether he can run down the street to attend a symposium or whether he has to spend an hour traveling.

The site committee members gave San Diego an average of 72.8 points out of 90 on the visit, ahead of Sacramento with 65.5 and San Francisco with 64.75. Overall, that left San Francisco with 222.75, Sacramento with 200.5 and San Diego 199.8.

The other city that had been under consideration, Emeryville, had 171.7.

Since the oversight committee first solicited proposals for the institute headquarters in March, many observers predicted San Francisco or some other location in the Bay Area would be the likely choice because Klein, one of the authors of the stem cell initiative, lives in the area.

But San Diego has always been considered a top contender because of its strong biotech and research communities. Sacramento's success with its proposal has been a bit of a surprise because the region's biomedical community is centered only around UC Davis. But the support and enthusiasm of the community, the cost of living, access to politicians and the top-notch building being offered helped it become a strong contender.

Penhoet and other search committee members were impressed with particular components of San Diego's proposal: SAIC, which manages grants for the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Veterans Administration and others have offered to help the stem cell institute set up and implement its grant processes.

Committee members also seemed to be swayed with San Diego's formation of a readiness team, an assortment of the region's professionals who would provide free services to get the institute ready for business on day one.
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Message 108425 - Posted: 7 May 2005, 6:38:15 UTC
Last modified: 7 May 2005, 6:38:25 UTC

Running 3rd, S.D. polishes its final pitch. Cities get 10 minutes each, then board picks.

By Terri Somers

May 6, 2005

How to compress a three-hour presentation into 10 minutes.

That's what San Diego business boosters have been trying to do since learning Monday that the city has made the final cut in the selection of a home for the California stem cell institute.

The task involved condensing a slick 30-minute slide show into less than 10 minutes. And it entailed lining up some of the big names in the San Diego business community to explain why they live here when they could be anywhere in the world, including venture capitalist Ivor Royston, the founder of San Diego's first successful biotech company, and real estate executive Malin Burnham.

Yesterday, many of them flew to Fresno on Royston's private jet to prepare for the 10-minute sales pitch they will make this afternoon. Their audience at the Fresno Convention Center is the 29-member committee overseeing the state's $3 billion stem cell initiative.

This morning Burnham will accompany a group of San Diego patient advocates to Fresno on Qualcomm's corporate jet. Dani Grady, a founder of Cancer Survivors of San Diego, will be among them.

"San Diego is unique," said Grady, a breast cancer survivor turned patient advocate. "When the community works together . . . when scientists can walk across the street and talk to each other and when patients are very involved, it really makes a difference."

"I'm looking forward to sharing that with my colleagues on the committee," she said.

This afternoon the oversight committee is scheduled to vote on whether to put the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in 17,000 square feet of rent-free space in San Diego, or in Sacramento or San Francisco.

The institute will be the headquarters for no more than 50 people who will administer $300 million annually in stem cell research grants. The search for a headquarters site fueled a hard-fought, monthlong competition among cities around the state because of the international spotlight that the institute would shine on its host city.

"We have to remember that these people may have heard nothing about what's gone on in the past month and the most critical message we need to give them is about our science," said Andrea Moser, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. The EDC joined the biotech trade group Biocom, UCSD Connect, Mentus, SAIC and City Hall in putting together the city's proposal, worth more than $12 million in privately funded incentives.

Ten cities submitted proposals to provide the institute's headquarters. But six of those proposals failed to meet the minimum requirements.

The remaining four written proposals were first scored by a six-member team comprised of three people from the state Department of General Services and three members of the institute's staff. Based on that preliminary scoring, San Francisco took the lead, followed by Sacramento, San Diego and Emeryville.

Every city but San Francisco raised questions about the scoring and requested changes. Among the San Diego contingent's concerns was that the preliminary scoring, which carries the majority of the weight in determining the site, was not done by members of the appointed site search committee.

Minor changes were made, and the scores were adjusted. But San Francisco remained in the lead. The other cities remained disgruntled with the process.

Last weekend, the search committee toured all four cities to see if the proposed buildings lived up to their description on paper. San Diego impressed the judges the most, followed in scoring by Sacramento, San Francisco and Emeryville.

However, when the touring scores were added to the preliminary scores, San Diego was still in third behind Sacramento by seven-tenths of a point. San Francisco remained well in the lead.

Although the search committee had planned to send just the top two cities to the final selection process, the close tally made it decide to send the top three.

The board is not bound by the search committee's recommendation.

"We're still elated with our success," Moser said Tuesday afternoon. "There's still a good chance for us to win this."

Today, San Diego's contingent will not grouse about scoring. And it won't seek to refute criticism about the site made by members of the search committee.

"It'll be about speed to cure," Moser said.

Robert Klein, chairman of the oversight committee, got involved as an author of the stem cell initiative because he wants better treatments for his son who has juvenile diabetes, Moser said. And Proposition 71, the stem cell initiative, is designed to get research money to scientists quickly, so they can move ahead in their quest for cures, she said.

"San Diego is the best place to give him that," Moser said. "We've got the expertise for commercializing the science coming out of the research labs. And we've got the expertise for collaboration."
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Message 108436 - Posted: 7 May 2005, 7:47:19 UTC

I'll gladly trade any useful cells
Extractable from my stem
(If I've still got one)
For $500 worth of dental work
I've got this molar that needs a crown-

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Message 108604 - Posted: 7 May 2005, 18:33:37 UTC
Last modified: 7 May 2005, 19:12:22 UTC

So its going to be on a 3rd floor with a Dalton bookstore under it, and several floors of condos over it. Klein lives in SF. Nice to see the political process is just as rigged as ever.

S.F. wins contest for stem cell institute. S.D. falls just short, has no complaints about judging.

By Terri Somers

May 7, 2005

FRESNO – San Francisco edged out San Diego yesterday to become the headquarters for the state's coveted stem cell institute, which will distribute $3 billion in research grants over the next decade.

San Francisco received 16 votes and San Diego 11 from the committee overseeing the stem cell initiative. Sacramento was eliminated in the first round after getting only three votes, which then went to San Francisco in the second, deciding ballot.

Although the institute will employ only 50 people, it will be the administrative hub of the initiative being watched around the world, bringing prestige and marketing heft to its host city.

San Diego business boosters had complained about the scoring process used in the preliminary judging of possible sites, but said they were satisfied with how yesterday's decision was reached.

"We're all disappointed, but the process today was as fair as it could be," said Julie Meier Wright, president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

"What is good about this, in the end, is that we demonstrated the kinds of things we can do as a community and how we can pull together," said Wright, whose group was one of several trade, government and private business groups that put together San Diego's $12 million proposal for the headquarters of the stem cell institute.

San Diego business and government leaders had portrayed the city as a uniquely collaborative place, home to a free flow of ideas and support between the private sector and researchers at public institutions.

"I'm disappointed, but now San Diego can return to what it does best: scientific discovery and pushing to find products to help patients," said Joe Panetta, president of the biotechnology trade group Biocom.

The San Francisco victory was a big boost for Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has staked much of his political capital on a redevelopment project in Mission Bay to foster biotech growth in his city.

"This secures our future as a point of destination for discovery," Newsom said after yesterday's vote.

The city's proposal, which Newsom said was worth $17 million, included 2,600 free hotel rooms and discounts on 14,000 others, worth a total of about $900,000.

The winning bid calls for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to be housed in 20,000 square feet on the third floor of a building near the new Mission Bay campus of the University of California San Francisco, across from the San Francisco Giants' SBC Park.

The headquarters is in a redevelopment project that eventually will include housing, biotech and retail space. The proposal also calls for 46,000 square feet of lab space that formerly housed the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease.

San Diego's bid included 17,000 square feet of rent-free office space on North Torrey Pines Road, with views of the golf course and the Pacific Ocean. The perks offered by private industry included assistance from SAIC in setting up the institute's information technology systems and grant-making process, free stem cell courses for the staff from Carlsbad-based Invitrogen scientists, and hotel rooms at the Lodge at Torrey Pines and the Estancia Resort and Spa for as little as $110 a night.

Since California voters approved the stem cell initiative known as Proposition 71 in November, cities around the state have been clamoring to host its headquarters. In March, 10 cities submitted proposals, but six were disqualified because they failed to meet all the requirements.

The finalists – San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento and Emeryville – were scored according to the appeal of their written proposals, with San Francisco finishing well in the lead. It claimed 89,000 biomedical professionals within a 45-minute commute of the city – and counted 13 counties in that area.

Sacramento finished second, followed by San Diego, which got fewer points by claiming 39,000 biomedical professionals, all within the county. And it did not fare as well as San Francisco in conference and hotel space.

Members of the site search subcommittee visited the four finalist sites last weekend, treated to a three-hour tour and presentation at each stop. San Diego won the most points on the site tour. It moved to within seven-tenths of a point of Sacramento, San Francisco remained in first place, and Emeryville was eliminated.

Because the scores were so close, the site search committee decided to let all three cities make presentations yesterday before the full oversight committee, which has 29 members, two of whom were absent.

But the three-hour presentations made before the site search committee had to be cut to 10 minutes.

Duane Roth, president of business-boosting Connect, made a slide presentation showing the density of San Diego's cluster of biotechnology companies, research institutes and medical facilities. And he highlighted the commitment private industry has made to support the headquarters in San Diego.

Newsom anchored San Francisco's presentation team, which included Nobel Prize-winning stem cell researcher Paul Berg and venture capitalist Brook Byers, who founded the world's first biotech company, Genentech.

San Francisco has the international status that the headquarters needs, Newsom said, touting its 84 foreign consulates and numerous international flights.

Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo and state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, pitched that city by touting its accessibility to elected officials and more affordable cost of living.

When it came time to pick a site, there was confusion and testy debate about how the oversight committee was supposed to use the site search committee's scoring. And no one was shy about showing hometown loyalty.

Two members of San Diego's contingent on the oversight committee – Tina Nova, chief executive of GenOptix, and Edward Holmes, dean of the UCSD Medical School – questioned why the written proposals were worth two-thirds of the overall scoring.

San Francisco's contingent argued that it should "honor the process" the site committee established from the beginning.

Later, members of the site committee debated whether their scoring was only to be used by the oversight committee as a guide, or whether it dictated recommending San Francisco.

Oversight Committee Chairman Robert Klein, who was also on the site committee, said he thought the highest scoring city, San Francisco, would be recommended. He ultimately voted for San Francisco.

Site committee members Sherry Lansing; Dr. Claire Pomeroy of the University of California Davis; and Dr. Richard Murphy, president of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, said they thought the scores would be used only as a guide – a way of showing the entire committee the process by which the proposals were judged.

"The scores are really so close, it doesn't make any difference," Lansing said. "It was never to determine a vote."

Klein said the vote would first be to judge whether the oversight committee wanted San Francisco. If not, a vote would be taken on Sacramento. And if the committee did not vote for Sacramento, a vote would be taken on San Diego.

But Dr. Keith Black, director of neurosurgery at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, suggested that committee members should simply vote for the site they thought best.

Ultimately, it was a battle dividing north and south.

All the committee members from the Bay Area, Sacramento and Fresno voted for San Francisco. They were joined by two members of the Southern California contingent, Dr. Gerald S. Levey, dean of the UCLA School of Medicine, and Oswald Steward, director of the University of California Irvine's Reeve Research Center.
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Message 110003 - Posted: 11 May 2005, 5:18:08 UTC

Lawsuit stymies research funding. State officials seek alternate possibilities.

By Paul Elias

May 10, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO – California officials conceded yesterday that a legal challenge has severely hampered the state stem cell agency's ability to borrow even a penny of the $3 billion in research funds it had hoped to raise over the next 10 years.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Treasurer Phil Angelides said their offices are aggressively fighting the lawsuit while pursuing alternative ways for the stem cell agency to borrow money to fund medical research.

"But we have a hard road to go here," Angelides said in Sacramento during a teleconference with reporters.

Angelides is a member of a special finance committee created by the same proposition that gave life to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state's novel response to the Bush administration stem cell research policy.

Federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research has been limited to about $25 million, a figure many scientists say is woefully insufficient to advance the field.

In November, 59 percent of California voters approved Proposition 71, which created the institute and authorized it to dole out an average of $300 million in research grants annually.

The finance committee that Angelides sits on met for the first time yesterday and authorized the state to borrow $3 billion in bonds for the stem cell agency.

But because of a lawsuit pending in Alameda County Superior Court questioning the legality of the stem cell institute, the state is unable to sell the long-term bonds while the challenges are pending.

Potential lenders are reluctant to invest in long-term state bonds that are threatened with litigation because they fear the lawsuit could somehow make their investments worthless.

Angelides said the finance committee is looking into alternative financing possibilities, including borrowing $200 million from short-term lenders, who may charge a higher interest rate than long-term lenders.

The finance committee also authorized Lockyer to take any action he deems appropriate to defeat the lawsuit. One possibility is to file a "validation" suit, which if successful would allow for the bond sales.

Stem cell officials dismissed the lawsuit as meritless and Angelides said they were filed by lawyers with connections to anti-abortion groups. Many Christian conservatives oppose human embryonic stem cell research because days-old embryos are destroyed.

"It is a narrow set of anti-choice activists who have an idealized zeal to stop stem cell research," Angelides said.

The lawsuit was filed by lawyers at the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which opposes abortion and had unsuccessfully fought in court to keep a brain-damaged Florida woman, Terri Schiavo, alive in a high-profile right-to-die case.

The lawsuit alleges that the state agency's finances aren't properly overseen by government officials in Sacramento.

Dana Cody, a foundation attorney, said that other groups and people interested in fiscal issues, and who aren't involved in abortion politics, such as the National Tax Limitation Committee and People's Advocate, are also participating in the foundation's lawsuit against the agency.

"Mr. Angelides did not do his homework," said Cody, who called inserting the abortion issue into the stem cell funding debate a "red herring."

She said the lawsuit is intended to ensure that California taxpayer money is properly handled. The stem cell agency is overseen exclusively by a 29-member board appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other elected officials.
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Message 113312 - Posted: 21 May 2005, 0:25:06 UTC

Finance questions. Don't build stem cell program on shaky base.


May 20, 2005

Add another surprise to the twists and turns of establishing the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the entity that will oversee the distribution of $3 billion in grants for stem cell research over the next 10 years.

In February, two lawsuits were filed asking the California Supreme Court to halt any flow of taxpayer funds to the institute. The lawsuits challenged the constitutionality of the institute because it would be granting up to $350 million per year without public oversight. The suits further raised questions about the composition of the 29-member oversight committee. While the groups filing the suits have connections to those who oppose the research on religious grounds, they are not the only ones concerned about the lack of public oversight of this huge sum of money. Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, one of the strongest supporters of Proposition 71, which established the institute and authorized its funding, has proposed legislation that also would create public oversight.

Since the lawsuits were filed, the institute's Independent Citizens Oversight Committee has moved ahead with its planning and formation. The Supreme Court rejected the lawsuits but did not address the quite legitimate legal questions they raised. The groups that had originally sued asked the Alameda County Superior Court to reconsider these issues, but they likely will be decided ultimately by the Supreme Court, and that process could take a year or more.

In the meantime, the six-member finance committee set up under Proposition 71 met recently in Sacramento to figure out a way around this temporary bar to public funding. It is seeking to secure $200 million in short-term funding, known technically as "bond anticipation notes," which would allow the program to move forward.

While it is understandable that supporters of stem cell research, including this page, want the research in California to move forward, the alternative financing is a bad idea for several reasons. First, the short-term notes would cost the already cash-strapped state more money because of the higher risk involved. If the lawsuits are successful, lenders probably won't get their money back unless the Legislature approves a special appropriation, which is highly unlikely. Second, those likely to step forward and provide funding are those who may benefit from the research if the courts allow funding of the research to go forward. The potential for conflicts of interest here is huge.

The finance committee is scheduled to meet again in a few weeks to decide how to go forward with funding while the legal questions are being addressed. The committee has the option of filing a bond validation suit asking the courts to allow the issuance of the bonds before the other legal issues are resolved.

If courts approve the bond sale, then the state can move forward with a funding mechanism. Otherwise, it would be prudent to allow the issues in the original lawsuits to be resolved. In the long term, a shaky financial foundation will not benefit California's stem cell research program.
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