Saturday, April 22, 2006

Judge Sabraw upholds constitutionality of California's Proposition 71

The CIRM site included text from the opinion upholding the constitutionality of Proposition 71:

The evidence at trial establishes that the application of the Act has been in compliance with its statutory framework, and that CIRM and the ICOC are operating in the same fashion as other state agencies. Each ICOC member, and each alternate, has taken the oath of office and publicly filed Form 700, the standard form California public officials file to disclose financial holdings. The ICOC developed and adopted incompatible activities statements, the conflict of interest code required by the Political Reform Act, and conflict of interest policies for ICOC members, CIRM staff, and members of each of the ICOC advisory groups. Between January 2005 and the date of the trial, the ICOC, its subcommittees, and its working groups held over 40 noticed, public meetings, in cities across the state, held pursuant to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. CIRM has responded to numerous Public Records Act requests. The selection of the site for the CIRM’s facilities was run by the Department of General Services, as required of state agencies, which department also executed the lease. The required independent audit is in process and is to be reviewed by the Citizen’s Financial Oversight Committee. In addition, testimony was presented that CIRM is subject to audit by the Controller and the Department of Finance, and that the Controller has met with the ICOC to discuss the type of practices he expected the ICOC to follow.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

The makeup of the governing body of the agency includes representatives of research centers that are likely to apply for the stem cell grants. But, Sabraw said, the plaintiffs presented no evidence that the institute serves the private interests of those universities and research organizations. [Hmmm, res ipsa loquitor?] It serves the public purpose endorsed by the voters -- fighting disease and stimulating the state's biotech economy, the judge held.


David Llewellyn, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs' groups, the California Family Bioethics Council, said an appeal is likely. Llewellyn said Sabraw erred by concluding that the stem cell institute's final decisions are under state control. "While there are plenty of reporting and monitoring elements (by other state offices), there is no state oversight entity -- the governor, the Legislature -- that can prevent this,'' Llewellyn said.

Sabraw's ruling initiates a series of appellate court steps that could take a year or more to complete. Because the suits involve a challenge to state bonds, they take priority on the state appeals court calendar, Klein said. The stem cell institute has not yet decided whether to ask the state Supreme Court to bypass the Court of Appeal and review the cases directly.

[See also coverage by Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tirbune.

The CIRM posting also stated: “CIRM’s first grants [through the BANs] equaled 50% of the entire national funding of the NIH for embryonic stem cell research for last year. Stem cell research in California has officially begun. We will win in this fight against a small and politically motivated minority, step by step. They will not keep medical research from improving the lives of millions of people. We owe it to the voters, we owe it to patients, we owe it to the families of California.”

One notes that federal support for embryonic stem cells was $40 million in 2005 according to testimony before Congress given by Dr. James Battey Jr., who chairs the NIH Stem Cell Task Force. [as reported in a post on IPBiz on March 8, 2006

The CIRM posting did not present the actual money arising from the BANs, but did state that the first 16 stem cell grants for 169 research fellows. A press release on April 10 had identified the amount as $12,112,252, which is less than 1/3 of the federal amount of $40 million, and hardly equals 1/2, as reported in the CIRM release of April 21.

Other text in the CIRM post:

“This is an extraordinary step in advancing the CIRM to higher levels of funding, making the voters’ mandate a reality,” said ICOC member Dr. Edward W. Holmes, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California,

“Judge Sabraw’s decision is an extraordinary affirmation for the citizens of California,” said ICOC member Pillip A. Pizzo, M.D., dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “This will enable the stem cell agency to carry out critically important research in the most exciting area of biomedical research. We all believe in the years ahead that stem cell research will lead to transformative knowledge about how to repair the human body and restore health.”

“Those of us who have been involved with the CIRM and on the ICOC believe we will fulfill the mandate of Proposition 71 and our scientists will conduct the business of finding the next generation of therapies and cures for a variety of diseases. We look forward to the future with great optimism,” Gerald S. Levey, M.D., dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the UCLA.

[IPBiz post 1500; April 22, 2006]


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