Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stem cells in San Diego

In an article entitled Stem cell research no dream for California, Terri Somers quotes Tom Okarma, chief executive of Geron: "Proposition 71 is supposed to help the economy by creating jobs first, then new tools and treatments, but until it really gets moving it's just an old Jag in the garage."

Of the San Diego connection: In San Diego, the four research institutions on the Torrey Pines Mesa – UC San Diego, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and The Scripps Research Institute – did not wait for Proposition 71 money to begin making changes. They pushed aside egos and bureaucracy to form a consortium under which they will share grant money and scientific expertise.

The work will be done in a new building the consortium hopes to construct near the Torrey Pines Gliderport.

The article did not mention the words "patent" or "intellectual property." The article did mention New Jersey: On Friday, New Jersey's legislature approved borrowing $270 million to fund stem cell research. IPBiz notes that the $270 million in New Jersey is to build and equip stem cell research facilities. See Trentonian, Dec. 18, 2006 and and New York Times, Dec. 14 ["the General Assembly authorized borrowing $270 million to build the state’s first stem-cell research centers in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden."]

The Union Tribune article did allude to potential problems: What's still lacking in the United States is a vehicle to link initiatives such as Harvard's and California's. Bureaucracy and egos play a role in keeping that from happening, Hall said, but so does the patchwork of state policies on stem cell research.

Suppose someone funded by California's stem cell institute develops a therapy for a specific disease and the best place in the country for treating it is the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. There would have to be different sources of funding, Hall said, and there also would be concerns about conflicting laws in each state.

“It's yet another impediment to American science,” Zon said. “Scientists like to know that they are working in an area of research that is condoned and people feel good about moving it forward.”

On Somers, see also here.

Roger Noll wrote in 21 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 1143:

States probably should be more willing to take such risks than individual institutions for three reasons. First, a state that successfully takes
more risks will obtain more research output per dollar spent, and thereby be
more likely to achieve both the scientific and economic objectives of the
state program. Because the state, but not research institutions, values the
economic spillover effect of the research program
, it will place more value on
accepting risks. Second, the state is not likely to view some federal funds at
stake in undertaking state-sponsored hESC work as having the same economic
spillover benefits as hESC research. If so, the state will place less
significance in the continuation of this support than will the institutions that receive this support, and be more willing to risk losing it. Third, the state
presumably will support projects in a portfolio of institutions, not all of which are likely to be found to be out of compliance - especially at the same time. This
portfolio effect will cause the state to perceive the average risk per project to
be lower than the risk of a state-supported project that a research institution


At first glance, CIRM appears to be especially susceptible to the
influence of distributive politics, partly because its goal is to develop commercial
and partly because CIRM was created by a ballot initiative. Because
initiatives are costly, well-organized interests are the primary source of ballot
measures. These sponsors are likely to take advantage of a policy vacuum from a
slow-to-respond legislature to place measures on the ballot that, from
the perspective of a majority of the voters, are better than the status
quo, but still far from the policies that centrist voters would prefer and would
vote for if given the opportunity. n49 Plausibly some beneficiaries of the
program - biotechnology firms, university researchers in biological sciences, and
venture capitalists who specialize in [p. 1166] biotechnology - were the forces
behind the proposition and designed CIRM as a program to enrich themselves. In
reality, this did not occur.

Noll talked about New Jersey: By contrast, the New Jersey hESC program establishes a new state research institution, jointly operated by two state universities, to undertake the research. n57 The New Jersey structure likely will be more responsive
to legislative priorities, for better or for worse, because the entity
that undertakes the research is government-owned. Federal laboratories, even
if they are managed by universities, often are more responsive to legislative
priorities than other university funded research facilities and other independent
research organizations.


from californiastemcellreport -->

Since all of you out there are looking at your schedule for the coming spring, be sure to reserve a spot for The Stem Cell Meeting in San Francisco.

Produced by Burrill & Company, the two-day session promises a host of provocative discussions and a broad range of international speakers. Topics range from “Stem Cell Argonauts: Brain Circulation in a Global Economy” to
“The Un-United States: Cell Lines, Border Lines, and the Law.”

According to the preliminary agenda for the March 12-13 event, the keynote speaker will be Ian "Dolly" Wilmut of the University of Edinburgh, whose topic is “Continental Drift: Where Will Stem Cells Take Us?”

So far no speakers from CIRM are on the agenda, but are likely to be there. No speakers from WARF are listed at this point. Beth Donley, then WARF general counsel, served notice at last year's session that CIRM would have to pony up fees to Wisconsin for use of WARF ESC patents.

We caught two days of last year's session. Hundreds of others attended. It was definitely worth taking in.

Early reservations (before Jan. 26) mean a $500 cut in the $1495 registration fee. The conference also offers an academic, government and nonprofit rate of $495. If you want to get more bang for your buck, double up with the CIRM Oversight Committee meeting on March 15 and 16 in Los Angeles. That session is free.

IPBiz asks: does the concept of "regulatory capture" apply to blogs? Separately, of the reference to Beth Donley, the context for her statement was the assertion by CIRM of requiring payment of royalties for use of CIRM patents; ergo, WARF was saying if CIRM is MAKING MONEY, we WARF want a piece of the action. As mentioned many many times by IPBiz, and as published in 88 JPTOS 239 (March 2006), WARF would be unlikely to attempt to charge, much less collect, royalties from academics for PURELY research activities. Refer to 35 USC 271(e)(1) and Merck v. Integra (which in an alternative universe might have been captioned in terms of two competing California research institutes, Scripps and Burnham). The irony here is drenching.


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