Arlene Chiu, chief scientific officer of the $3 billion California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, told the agency's directors at a Wednesday meeting in San Diego, that CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute of Los Angeles (CHA RMI) withdrew its application on Sept. 28 following a lengthy administrative review.
She did not elaborate on the matter. She referred questions to Tamar Pachter, general counsel for CIRM, who told us that it would be more appropriate to request the CHA information under California's open records law, a process that takes some time. CIRM directors did not comment on the matter.
John M. Simpson, stem cell project director of the Foundation of Taxpayer and Consumers Rights of Santa Monica, Ca., told directors that withdrawal of the application and action involving a grant to the Burnham Institute "spoke very well of the staff and their diligence." He said it showed CIRM was "serious about standards."
William Heisel of the Los Angeles Times reported that
Jean Yi, the CHA institute's chief executive, said it withdrew its application because of criticism that it was not a true nonprofit
"'CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute (CHARMI) more than adequately addressed the baseless criticism,' Yi said in a written statement. 'We think the process was needlessly politicized. . . . Nevertheless, we are withdrawing because the last thing we want to do is be the source of any impairment to [the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine's] current level of well-earned public support.'"Pachter told us that CHA RMI had met the legal requirements for California nonprofit status.
CIRM directors approved the grant to CHA last March following a closed-door review. The review failed to turn up the fact that the parent of CHA RMI, CHA Health Systems, was headed by scientist Kwang-Yul Cha, who was enmeshed at the time in an international plagiarism dispute
Following disclosure of the Cha controversy, Simpson criticized CIRM's secretive grant award process. He said CIRM was "burned" because of its closed door review of the grant applications. Marcy Darnovsky, associate director of the Center for Genetics and Society of Oakland, Ca., said, "The leadership of CHA Health Systems 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."
One of those alleging plagiarism, Alan DeCherney, editor of the Fertility and Sterility Journal, in May retracted his allegations of plagiarism and perjury.
Chiu also said another grant approved by directors last spring was rejected during the administrative review that is conducted on all approved grants before the checks actually go out. Chiu said the principal investigator on the $638,000 grant, David Smotrich, did not meet the criteria of being an on-site, fulltime employee of the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Ca.
In its public review of the, CIRM said last Febarury, "This proposal is exactly the type of research that CIRM should be funding. The personnel is second to none, and it could not have been funded by NIH(National Institutes of Health.).
Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote:
"Smotrich, who runs an in-vitro fertilization practice in La Jolla, is a member of Burnham's clinical faculty. He has also started a stem cell bank that is collecting donated frozen human embryos left over after the in-vitro fertilization process but no longer wanted by women trying to have children.
"From those embryos, Smotrich and scientists from the Burnham have been working to derive stem cells. He and a team that includes Burnham researchers Evan Snyder and Jeanne Loring sought the grant to fund work that Smotrich and other benefactors have underwritten to date.
"The standards of this particular grant put an independent research facility, such as the Burnham, at a disadvantage compared with an academic/medical facility such as UCSD, where clinical faculty can see patients in an office on campus, said Snyder and Smotrich.
"'It's frustrating,' Smotrich said last night. 'But hopefully it's just a hiccup, and there will be other ways to get funding. Perhaps future (grant applications) will be written differently. This is a learning process for everyone.'"
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