NBC: Perry associates linked to possible statewide ‘stem cell’ bank


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.NBC: Perry associates linked to possible statewide ‘stem cell’ bank

NBC News‘ Michael Isikoff reports that Perry associates could benefit from a provision placed in a massive Medicaid funding bill that would allow the state commissioner of Health and Human Services to award a contract to establish a statewide adult stem cell bank.

The provision, added during the special session, could provide a significant business opportunity for two Perry associates — Dr. Stanley Jones, who performed a controversial procedure that involved injecting Perry’s own adult stem cells into his back; and David Eller, a former DuPont executive and chairman of the Board of Regents at Texas A&M University, who is a major Perry donor.

Business records reviewed by the San Antonio Express-News show that Eller owns Celltex Therapeutics Corporation, which is also registered as Biolife Stem Cell Corporation. NBC reports that Jones, Perry’s doctor, is involved in Eller’s stem cell venture. Neither Celltex or Biolife offer much in the way of information on the internet. Phone calls to numbers listed for Eller weren’t returned.

NBC reports that Perry was actively supporting the legislation while he was receiving the stem cell injections from Jones. The experimental treatment has caused controversy in the medical community, as stem cell experts questioned the effectiveness of the treatment Perry received. Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner would not disclose how much the governor paid for the treatment and only said that Perry paid whatever cost his insurance would not cover.

Campaign finance records show that Eller has donated at least $30,000 to Perry since he became governor. He also served on the board of Endocare, a medical devices company, while the company was being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for accounting irregularities in the early 2000s. In 2007, two Endocare executives were indicted by a federal grand jury in Orange County, Calif., for cooking the books. During the closing days of the Legislature’s special session, Rep. Rick Hardcastle inserted a provision into a giant Medicaid funding bill that gives the commissioner of the Health and Human Services Department the authority to issue a contract to establish a statewide adult stem cell bank, The Texas Tribune’s Emily Ramshaw reported.

Hardcastle, who has multiple sclerosis, told the Tribune that the issue had been on his mind for a long time. He said that the governor’s office hadn’t asked him to carry the legislation, but one of the governor’s staffers had advised him on it.

However, there are questions about what authority the Legislature actually gave the Health and Human Services Commission.

“Every reporter that’s come to us reads it different, and we’re having the same problem,” said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state agency, told the Express-News.

She said the questions centered around if the Legislature wants the agency to propose regulation for the adult stem cell industry or to contract out development of it. Goodman said the agency had requested clarification from Hardcastle, who responded by writing that it was not his intention to place new regulation on the industry.

“…The amendment is intended only to establish eligibility criteria for the creation and operation of an autologous adult stem cell bank, and only if it is deemed necessary and appropriate by [the agency].”

Still, Goodman said the agency believes that the legislation did provide the agency with the authority to issue a contract to develop a statewide stem cell bank, but that such a contract could be issued only after a study of its cost effectiveness and possible efficiency.

She said the agency has not commissioned such a review.