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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Call for public benefits, but not quite OA, for California-funded stem cell research

California's Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has released a report by John M. Simpson, Affordability, Accessibility & Accountability in California Stem Cell Research, calling for public access to the results of state-funded stem cell research. From the executive summary:
Proposition 71 was approved by California voters who were promised that a $3 billion bond issue would yield breakthrough medical therapies and cures while paying back the state's investment in stem cell research....Keeping Proposition 71's promises (See Appendix 2) means the organization it created, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), and its oversight committee, must put the interests of taxpayers and patients ahead of private biotech companies who have a financial stake in the outcome....[T]hree principles are essential to ensure Proposition 71 benefits all Californians: [1] Affordability --Cures and treatments must be priced so all Californians can afford and benefit from them, not just a wealthy few. [2] Accessibility --Not only do all Californians deserve access to Proposition 71-funded therapies, but stem cell researchers need access to the results of other Proposition 71-funded research to develop the widest range of cures. [3] Accountability --Policies must ensure that grantees and licensees fulfill their obligations when benefiting from public money....Research institutions that get CIRM funds should pay the state at least 25 percent of net royalties in excess of $100,000 received for any invention or discovery developed with Proposition 71 funds....CIRM would create a patent pool that would include all patents resulting from research it funds....CIRM would be able to tell an applicant that no patent is possible for a particular project if it determines that keeping the expected results in the public domain best promotes further research. CIRM could bar any discovery from being licensed exclusively when it determined nonexclusive licenses would best promote development of a treatment or therapy. Any California-based researcher would be able to use the results of CIRM-funded research for further research without paying a licensing fee.

Also see the press release (January 23, 2006).

Comment. This is an excellent set of recommendations except that it stops short of calling for OA to this body of publicly-funded research. Why? Is it because the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has never heard of OA? That would be surprising. The U of California Academic Council urged state policy-makers to mandate OA to California-funded stem-cell research in a public letter on April 4, 2005, and Robert Dynes, the President of the UC system, followed-up with a specific appeal to the research oversight committee in a public letter on May 17, 2005. On top of these efforts, individual advocates like Dave Shatto have called for OA to California-funded stem cell research --as I have in this blog. The right to use the research without paying licensing fees is a good step, but it doesn't insure that digital copies of the research are online and available for use free of charge. I urge the FTCR to add this final plank to the platform.