Thursday, March 22, 2007

FTCR Calls for Investigation Into California Stem Cell Grant

A California watchdog group has asked the state's stem cell research agency to investigate a Korean-linked organization that the agency approved last week for a $2.6 million grant.

John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumers Rights, said in a press release that CIRM's "secretive awards process let a questionable $2.6 million grant slip by the Oversight Committee without adequate scrutiny."

His comment came today following a report Wednesday on the California Stem Cell Report concerning the recipient of the grant, CHA RMI, and Kwang-Yul Cha, chief executive of the parent company of CHA RMI.

In a letter to the CIRM, Simpson said:
"It is not clear what (CHA RMI's) affiliation is with its corporate parents CHA Medical, CHA Biotech and other corporate for-profit entities. Kwang-Yul Cha is the chief executive of CHA Health Systems, chairman of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center and director of CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute. Is CHA RMI truly a non-profit institution eligible for funding in this round of grants?"
Simpson also said "serious questions" have been raised about Cha in connection with plagiarism allegations along with a state inquiry into whether he was violating the law by using MD after his name when he is not licensed to practice medicine in California.

Simpson said in the press release:
"We’ve argued that the process should be open and the applicants identified as they do in Connecticut. The stem cell institute refused to let the sun shine in and they got burned as a result."
In response to our query, Dale Carlson, chief communications officer for CIRM, said,
"Simpson appears to be uninformed about the grant review process, here and at other agencies."
We have asked Cha for a comment and will carry it when we receive it.

Simpson also said,
"I'm grateful the California Stem Cell Report first linked the CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute to the problems in its affiliates. Without David Jensen's digging this would likely have slipped by us all."
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