Saturday, October 06, 2007

On CIRM: the extra expense for bonds and the matter of Cha's proposal

The post on californiastemcellreport titled CIRM Bonds: 3.55 Percent vs. 5.168 Percent Interest includes the text:

If it [CIRM] can't use the cheaper financing, the state [California] faces close to another $1 billion in interest costs, according to some estimates. That is beyond the $3 billion that non-taxable bonds were expected to cost. (Yes, the figure is nearly identical to the amount of bonds authorized under Prop. 71.)

The idea that that, even with non-taxable bonds, California taxpayers were going to pay as much in bond financing [$3 billion] and the value of the bonds themselves [$3 billion] is hardly a news flash. In a 2006 post on IPBiz [
Did campaign ads for Proposition 71 violate fair trade laws?
, text from a press release of FTCR was quoted:

Proposition 71, approved overwhelmingly by the voters in 2004, enacted The California Stem Cell and Cures Act. It created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to oversee funding $3 billion in stem cell research. Including bond financing, $6 billion of public money is at stake.

IPBiz notes that the extra billion (and one billion may be an underestimate) does not arise because of the acts of stem cell OPPONENTS but rather because of the acts of stem cell ADVOCATES. The flawed intellectual property [IP] policy of CIRM, in insisting on royalty sharing, is effectively betting that the EXTRA cost in bond interest will be offset by INCOMING patent royalties. The likelihood that that will be true is epsilon close to zero. That extra billion California taxpayers are shouldering is for no good reason.

The earlier IPBiz post mentioned an article by Tamra Lysaght of the University of Sydney, published in the Australian journal Bioethical Inquiry, which examined 99 news stories from the Prop. 71 campaign and which stated:
"Concerns regarding the hype surrounding the potential medical benefits of stem cell research and its implications for public expectations were notably absent from the public discourse prior to the passage of Prop. 71, though they were later noted by a number of scientific and institutional actors." IPBiz notes the Tamra only studied news stories (and not letters to the editor or op-eds or articles NOT in newspapers) and that news stories conveying negative information about Proposition 71 were scarce then and now. News stories on the intellectual property issues of CIRM since Proposition 71 have been filled both with falsities and significant omissions. Thus, the underlying assumption of the article in Bioethical Inquiry, that news articles reflect a snapshot of the true state of things, may be seriously questioned.

***On a separate, but related, matter

Californiastemcellreport has a separate post related to the Cha - RMI matter titled CGS on CHA: Pushed or Jumped? as well as a post Text of CHA Statement.

In an earlier post, californiastemreport referred to the Cha problem as "an international plagiarism flap" and Cha as having been "enmeshed at the time in an international plagiarism dispute." Californiastemcellreport also stated: Alan DeCherney, editor of the Fertility and Sterility Journal, in May retracted his allegations of plagiarism and perjury.

IPBiz notes that to this day, neither the californiastemcellreport nor the Los Angeles Times (which was pushing the story for a while) got to the heart of what was going on in the Cha plagiarism matter. The issue was a DUPLICATE PUBLICATION in the English language in the journal Fertility & Sterility of a paper which had previously appeared in the Korean language in the Korean journal KJOG. The guidelines for Fertility & Sterility DEFINED "duplicate publication" TO BE PLAGIARISM. HOWEVER, not everyone believes that "self-plagiarism" is "plagiarism" (in some general context). This came up in spades in the Wendler matter at Southern Illinois University [SIU]. Because the F&S and KJOG papers had some common authors, F&S dropped the plagiarism accusation. [The perjury business should never have happened.] The lingering problem, unaddressed by californiastemcellreport, the Los Angeles Times, and F&S, was that the name of the actual "author" of the text in both F&S and KJOG (Kim) was NOT PRESENT on the F&S paper. There is factual confusion on whether the Cha people tried to remedy this. If, hypothetically speaking, the name of the author (meaning the one who first wrote the words down on a piece of paper) was not named as an author on the F&S article that would be plain, old-fashioned plagiarism. Furthermore, hypothetically speaking, if this occurred solely within the United States, this would separately be plain, old-fashioned copyright infringement, unless this were deemed a work-for-hire.

There's a bigger issue here. Although the CIRM people really dropped the ball in not connecting the grant to Cha - RMI to Cha's activities (a complete failure of due diligence), the real issue is the subject matter of the grant itself. The newspapers discussed the GOAL (treating Alzheimer's patients, etc.) without getting into HOW the goal was going to be reached (i.e., how the $2.6 million was going to be spent). There was little discussion of the fact Cha - RMI were going to do human SCNT, and there was basically no discussion that

#1. human SCNT was the area of fraudulent activity by Hwang Woo Suk
#2. no one has ever successfully performed human SCNT, before or after the Hwang Woo Suk fraud
#3. that the likelihood of the $2.6 million grant achieving a therapy to treat Alzheimer's was fundamentally non-existent.

Thus, to the extent the newspapers covered this at all, they went for the salacious aspects. They didn't even cover the salacious aspects accurately, and they didn't inform the readers of what the readers really needed to know: whether the $2.6 million was being well-spent, a question distinct from anything about Cha himself.
The newspaper coverage of the Cha matter vividly illustrates why the approach of the author of the paper in Bioethical Inquiry was flawed.


318 Science 183 (12 Oct 07) mentions that individual investors wound up with $103 million of the $250 million of stem cell bonds. Expectations were for $30 million.


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