Tuesday, January 7, 2014

CIRM fought the California Legislature to keep the two-thirds vote requirement for funding non-stem-cell science. Said it was standing up for the will of the California voters.

The following points were made in my prior posts regarding CIRM:
  • First, if CIRM asks to raise more money via a new bond issue, they should not restrict grant awards made with the new funding to stem cell research (i.e., the law should be revised; with the new funding initiative, CIRM should transition into CIBR: California Institute for Biomedical Research). This makes obvious sense in light of the fact that  federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell funding have been lifted. (For the record, it is not GrantSlave's intention here to advocate for a continuation of CIRM in any form, even if it were to transition to CIBR.).
  • Second, CIRM is blatantly disregarding the intent of the law that brought it into being by funding non-stem-cell, non-regenerative medicine projects. Furthermore, there is no public record (that I have been able to find) that CIRM grant reviewers are deliberating whether these non-stem cell projects constitute "vital research opportunities" that merit funding despite being outside the intended scope of the law. The grant reviewers are legally required to vote on whether non-stem cell projects are "vital research opportunities" before these projects can be funded. A two-thirds super-majority is mandatory in order for funding to be approved.
In 2008, the California Senate passed SB 1565 amending the law underlying CIRM by a vote of 40-0. The bill won in the assembly 64-7. This bill would have made it easier to fund non-stem-cell science, something I advocated in my first post. It was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger and never saw the light of day again.

CIRM opposed SB 1565. They wanted to keep the two-thirds vote requirement for non-stem-cell research. They felt it was important. Here is what the CIRM leadership had to say (emphasis not mine--underlining and bolding from their letter):

  •  ". . . the proposed amendment to Proposition 71 would send the wrong message to Californians and to the nation at largeIt would also thwart the will of the more than seven million Californians who voted for Proposition 71 in order to address the federal funding gap for human embryonic stem cell research, a gap that continues to exist to this day. By removing the two-thirds vote requirement, the amendment would undermine the very purpose of Proposition 71 – to provide a priority for funding human embryonic stem cell research. . . . For all of these reasons . . . we are strongly opposed to the removal of the two-thirds vote requirement."
So, the will of the California people was to fund embryonic stem cell research? OK, the feds have lifted their restrictions, so we can excuse CIRM's funding of other, non-embyronic, stem cell research. This other stem-cell research is, after all, allowed in the underlying law. 

But what about all the funding of non-stem cell, non-regenerative medicine projects? What happened to standing up for the will of the more than 7 million Californians who voted for Prop 71? And what about this very important two-thirds vote requirement for funding non-stem-cell research? Is deliberating whether non-stem-cell projects are "vital research interests" no longer important? There no mention of such deliberations or the legally mandated votes in the detailed review summaries generated for funded grants: see, for example this summary of an awarded, non-stem cell grant. CIRM fought to keep the requirement for these two-thirds votes in place: is it not important to at least document for the public that they have occurred?  My guess is that they are not taking place: if they were, the discussions and outcomes would most likely be included in the review summaries.

(note: post revised for clarity)

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