Prop 71's Stem Cell Oversight Committee Rife With Conflicts of Interest
Santa Monica, CA -- The newly appointed committee to oversee $3 billion in bond funds for stem cell research approved by voters under Prop 71 is rife with ties to biotech and pharmaceutical companies that could benefit from research grants, according to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).
Members of the committee have ties to some of the largest biotech and pharmaceutical companies in the world, including Pfizer and Amgen, which will look to profit from research grants made by the Prop 71 oversight committee. The only contender to lead the committee, Robert Klein, has contributed $99,520 to several of the elected officials who appointed members of the committee.
"The public health value of stem cell research could be significantly compromised by the web of conflicts between committee members and the companies that stand to profit from research grants," said Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "The concern is that research grants will be given on the basis of personal relationship and financial interest and not in the best interest of California patients."
FTCR has uncovered the following:
* Robert Klein, (appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, Lt. Gov. Bustamante, State Treasurer Angelides and State Controller Westly ) leading contender to chair the committee, has donated to $52,400 to Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, $27,695 to State Controller Steve Westly and $19,425.48 to State Treasurer Phil Angelides, all of whom appointed oversight committee members. Klein also donated $2,759,226.83 to proposition 71.
* Edward Penhoet, (appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger) was a founder of biotech firms, Chiron Corp and Renovis. Chiron has an agreement to market Schering Plough's top selling drug Betseron. Renovis is co-developing a stroke drug with drug co. Astrazeneca. Penhoet is also a board member for pharmaceutical company Zymogenetics, which is part owner of drug firm Novo Nordisk. In October he resigned from the board of directors of Eyetech Pharmaceuticals which has collaborated with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotech co. Gilead Sciences.
* Tina S. Nova, (appointed by Lt. Gov. Bustamante) CEO and founder of biotech firm Genoptix Inc.
* Ted W. Love, (appointed by State Controller Westly) president & CEO of Nuvelo Inc. a biopharmaceutical co. Nuvelo has partnered with Amgen to develop alfimeprase, a heart medication.
* Michael Friedman, (appointed by State Treasurer Angelides) is president & CEO of City of Hope Cancer Center and is the former senior vice-president of R&D and medical & public policy for Pharmacia Corp. Pharmacia was bought in 2003 by Pfizer.
* David Baltimore, (appointed by State Treasurer Angelides) serves on the board of Amgen the world's largest biotech firm.
* Edward Holmes, (appointed by Chancellors of UC campuses with medical schools) serves on the board of Tularik Inc, a biotech firm merging with Amgen.
"Drug companies and biotech firms should not have the final say on $3 billion in taxpayer money," said David Fink of the Foundation For Taxpayer and Consumer Rights "This further displays the need for transparency and public input."
In addition, many committee members are high level officials at medical schools and university who benefit from financial donations and research grants from large pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
Prop 71 was passed by California voters on Nov. 2nd 2004 to establish the "CA Institute for Regenerative Medicine" for stem cell research. The issuance of a $3 billion bond will fund the research and facilities. The research will be regulated by the 27 member Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) which is being criticized for the conflicts described above.
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization. For more information, visit us on the web at http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org
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