Thursday, March 22, 2007

CGS: CIRM Grant Recipient Has 'Shadowed' History

The Center for Genetics and Society today said "troubling questions" have arisen in connection with California's $2.6 million stem cell research grant to CHA RMI, adding another voice to the call for an investigation.

Marcy Darnovsky, associate director of the Oakland-based center, said in a press release:
"The leadership of CHA Health Systems (a Korean firm) has a shadowed recent history, including a lawsuit that alleges the director of its fertility center lied in order to obtain a woman’s eggs, The CIRM needs to live up to its oft-stated commitments to transparency and responsibility by freezing this multi-million dollar award while a thorough investigation is undertaken. If questions cannot be satisfactorily answered, the grant should be rescinded.”
Jesse Reynolds, a policy analyst at CGS and who has attended many CIRM meetings, said:
"Did CHA Health Systems establish this subsidiary in order to pursue California public funding, at a time when South Korea government funds were unavailable because of the Hwang Woo Suk cloning scandal? Given the recent record of unethical conduct in this field, the CIRM should have known to exercise greater scrutiny."
The press release continued:
"The medical director of the CHA Fertility Center is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a woman who says that he lied about the number of eggs that had been collected from her, causing her to continue seeking treatment from him. The CHA Fertility Center and the CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute are located in the same Los Angeles office building.

"'The lawsuit suggests that CHA’s leadership placed a woman at unnecessary risk by misleading her into undergoing repeated cycles of egg retrieval,' Darnovsky said. 'Women’s health advocates have warned about the health risks of egg retrieval, as well as about likely conflicts of interest between fertility doctors conducting egg retrieval and researchers who want the eggs for their experiments.'"
Asked for a comment, Dale Carlson, chief communications officer for CIRM, said CGS' comments were "another uninformed reaction." He used similar language concerning statements by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumers Rights.

We have asked CHA for comment on these matters and will carry them when we receive them.

The center's press release was not posted on the Internet at the time of this writing. We will carry an advisory when it is posted.

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