by Steven Ertelt
December 7, 2004
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) -- A committee to oversee grants to scientists and universities conducting embryonic stem cell research is being assembled. Meanwhile, the first checks funding the unproven research could be sent as early as May 2005.
The chairman of the campaign committee that put Proposition 71 on the California ballot in November says the first grants could be distributed in six months.
Robert Klein made that prediction at a two-day stem cell research conference held at the University of California, Irvine.
According to a report by the Sacramento Bee newspaper, Klein has created a nonprofit group that will facilitate research forums and identify the best possibility for grants and awards for the research.
He told the Bee that his forums can help provide information to the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, which will oversee state stem cell funding.
The committee meets for the first time on December 17 in San Franciso, according to a Monday announcement from state Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly.
State officials have named just 10 of the 29 members of the panel at this point. All 29 must be named by Sunday.
Klein hopes to become the chairman of the committee and he says he has met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his staff about that.
Claire Pomeroy, of the University of California, Davis, medical school, told the Bee that Klein's May 2005 funding timetable is "very ambitious" but he felt the committee should approve funding requests as quickly as possible.
Klein also criticized legislation that state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, a Democrat, has written that would ensure taxpayers share in the profits any stem cell research produces.
Ortiz's proposal would also require any drugs developed as a result of the research to be affordable for poor Californians.
"As funders of this research, the people of California not only deserve, but are entitled to, appropriate royalties from their investment,'' Ortiz wrote in a letter Monday to organizers of the Irvine meeting, according to an Associated Press story.
The new oversight committee will also have to work out intellectual property rights issues as the University of Wisconsin, where embryonic stem cells were first discovered, and its partner, Geron Corp., own many patent rights to any commercial products developed with the stem cells.
California voters approved Proposition 71 in November by a wide margin.
However, pro-life groups nationwide oppose the use of embryonic stem cells because human life must be destroyed to obtain them.
They also point out that embryonic stem cell research has yet to produce a cure or treatment in more than two decades of research. Meanwhile, the use of adult stem cells has already resulted in more than 120 treatments for various diseases and ailments.