Saturday, September 06, 2008

Will California taxpayers roll rocks uphill for ten years?

Californiastemcellreport correctly observed:

Prop. 71 created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine [CIRM]. (...) The initiative placed representatives of the beneficiaries of the $3 billion in grants in control of the rules for giving away the money, a built-in conflict-of-interest that naturally raises concerns. Prop. 71 also created difficulties that have repeatedly hampered CIRM's operations, including an unusual quorum arrangement that forced directors last month to fill out their panel by picking a member from the audience. All of which is legal under Prop. 71.

The report also correctly identified its viewpoint on Proposition 71, in language somewhat echoing that of John McCain:

It is important that it be successful, fulfilling its mission efficiently and in a manner that recognizes its first responsibility is to the public – not the scientific community, not patient advocates and not industry.

An issue is "what one does" with a 3 billion dollar enterprise which is NOT going to fulfill its objective of creating therapies on a 10 year time scale, but which is going to create all kinds of rivalries, in the area of intellectual property and elsewhere. This is Arrowsmith for the 21st century.

There is a quirky tie-in to the patent reform wars. Of CIRM, in the post, the report is favorably commenting on one aspect of SB 1565 pertaining to the Little Hoover Commission: CIRM should welcome the commission and use the opportunity to build support for making some of the difficult changes that could make it more successful in its mission. The visceral and intractible issue is that the problems with CIRM can be identified by the Little Hoover Commission, but they can't be fixed, because they are inherent. A lesser form of Deming-defying logic is found in the proposed post-grant review (aka opposition) in patent reform, wherein a "product inspection step" is proposed to alleviate a "product production problem." The only people who paid attention to Deming were the Japanese, and that was over 20 years ago. Jorge Santayana is proved right, again, and California taxpayers are the victims. This is Sisyphus for the 21st century.

[To date, American inventors have evaded the logic-defying reforms, and New Jersey taxpayers "just said no" to the Jersey version of Proposition 71. Perhaps Jersey can loan Luna the Cockatoo to California to recite "Help Me; Help Me" enough times that someone in California will listen?]


Backing Proposition 71 requires a suspension of demands on science. As Newsweek wrote of particle physics:

It also requires the political will to lavish money on a project that has no predictable practical return


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