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Between voting to reject most of the recommendations from the state's good government panel and handing out $16 million in grants to stem cell researchers, the stem cell agency's board ventured into one of the hottest debates of the summer this week.

Acting on a motion by member Jeff Sheehy, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) overwhelming endorsed the public option as a necessary part of the Obama administration's healthcare reform.

"It's not socialized medicine," Sheehy said. "It's a way to keep private insurance companies honest and is essential to holding down costs in insurance."

Board member Phil Pizzo, dean of Stanford University's Medical school, who seconded the motion, said, "In the absence of a public option, there isn't healthcare reform." He said the ICOC needed to "speak in an enthusiastic way"  supporting the public option because it is "critically relevant to have access to our therapies."

ICOC Vice Chairman Duane Roth said that all though he believes in healthcare reform, he was voting against the endorsement. "I have far less faith in government to provide access," he said.

The motion to support the public option as part of healthcare reform carried 16-3 with one abstention. Nine ICOC members were absent.

I certainly haven't agreed with everything the ICOC has done, but they sure got this one right. Let's just hope they expend as much effort making this action known in Washington, D.C., as has gone into touting their biotech-friendly, anti-consumer position on biosimilar drug legislation.