Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Text of CIRM Response on Reed Letter

Here are the questions that the California Stem Cell Report submitted to Richard Murphy, interim president of CIRM, concerning the Aug. 2 letter by John Reed, president of the Burnham Institute and a member of the CIRM Oversight Committee, and Murphy's verbatim response.

CSCR: Have Oversight Committee members been told that they cannot intervene for or against applicants either before or after ICOC action on applications?

Murphy: "Yes. Members of the ICOC are required to take the Attorney General's on-line ethics course, which includes information regarding the prohibition against participating in a decision in which a person has a financial interest. In addition, the Attorney General's Office made an ethics presentation to the Board in 2005 and CIRM's outside counsel made an ethics presentation to the Board in April 2007."

CSCR: Have any other directors besides Reed intervened?
Murphy: "No.".

CSCR: Was Reed at any time told, either verbally or in writing or any other way, that his letter was inappropriate or improper or may have violated conflict of interest laws.

Murphy: "After CIRM received the letter, Dr. Reed was informed that he must refrain from participating in any way in CIRM's consideration of the Burnham grant. In addition, CIRM staff did not consider the letter in conducting their administrative review of the Burnham grant."

CSCR: Did the ICOC or any committee of the ICOC discuss Reed's action or letter at any point?

Murphy: "Neither the ICOC nor any of its subcommittees received or discussed Dr. Reed's letter."

CSCR: Did any CIRM staff or member of the Oversight Committee or the chairman suggest to Reed that he should write his Aug. 2 letter concerning the Smotrich grant?

Murphy: "Dr. Reed called the Chairman(Robert Klein) to ask how to deal with what Burnham saw as technical mistakes in CIRM’s interpretation of the application. The Chairman, not knowing enough about the technical details or whether mistakes had been made, suggested that Dr. Reed write a letter to the science team, which was knowledgeable about the issues."

CSCR: Does CIRM or the ICOC contemplate any refresher sessions on ethics or conflict of interest for ICOC members? Have such briefings already occurred in 2007?

Murphy: "Yes, in addition to the Attorney General's on-line course, which members are required to take every two years, the Board has received two oral briefings on conflict of interest issues, including in April 2007. The Board will continue to receive periodic ethics training to ensure that members are familiar with the rules."

CSCR: Burnham was told that the denial of the grant would be announced at the ICOC meeting in August. Why did that not happen?

Murphy: "CIRM did not announce in August because Burnham had appealed the determination, and that issue was not resolved before the ICOC meeting in August."

CSCR: Re your note on the press release on the October ICOC meeting and your concerns about how the Burnham institute might feel concerning the Smotrich matter, do you think this was a case where
you put Burnham's interests ahead of CIRM's. Isn't the integrity of CIRM more important than Burnham's or Reed's reputations?

Murphy: "CIRM's action in rejecting the Burnham grant speaks for itself. CIRM staff conducted themselves with the highest degree of professionalism and integrity and informed the Board of their decision at a public meeting in San Diego. Given the public discussion of this issue, I saw no need to include it in a press release following the meeting. My decision was indeed made to be supportive of Burnham, but it in no way compromised CIRM’s integrity or interests."

CSCR: I can only find a link to ICOC conflict of interest policies on the CIRM web site. Were the policies codified into regulations and officially issued as such?

Murphy: "As required by the Political Reform Act, the ICOC adopted a conflict of interest code that applies to members and CIRM staff. In addition, the ICOC voluntarily adopted a conflict of interest policy for its members that goes beyond the requirements of state law. Unlike the conflict of interest code, the policy was not codified into regulations."

Murphy: Does CIRM or the Oversight Committee contemplate any action in connection with Reed's letter?

Murphy: "It is important to remember that Dr. Reed sent his letter after the ICOC had approved the grant, which received the second highest score from a group of out-of-state scientists on the Grants Working Group. At the time, Dr. Reed mistakenly believed that conflict rules would not prevent him from providing technical information regarding the status of a faculty member to CIRM staff. As soon as CIRM staff received the letter, counsel advised Dr. Reed that he must refrain from contacting the staff and board members regarding a grant to the Burnham and advised staff to disregard Dr. Reed's letter. It therefore had no effect on CIRM's process, and Dr. Reed now fully understands the conflict rules. CIRM does not intend to take any further action regarding this matter."

CSCR: If there is other material that you think would help provide insight into this matter, please send it along as well.

Murphy: "None." Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

  1. Mentorless5:43 PM

    COI asphyxiation and Murphy don't get it.

    1. "CSCR: Burnham was told that the denial of the grant would be announced at the ICOC meeting in August. Why did that not happen?

    Murphy: "CIRM did not announce in August because Burnham had appealed the determination, and that issue was not resolved before the ICOC meeting in August.""

    But/However: "[...O]n Aug. 27, Tamar Pachter, CIRM general counsel, wrote Burnham concerning Reed's Aug. 2 letter. She said his request to appeal the staff decision was rejected because no right of appeal existed for administrative findings..."[bold-face added]

    2. "Murphy: "It is important to remember that Dr. Reed sent his letter after the ICOC had approved the grant, which received the second highest score from a group of out-of-state scientists on the Grants Working Group. At the time, Dr. Reed mistakenly believed that conflict rules would not prevent him..."

    Hogwash. Dr. Reed was attempting to reverse the administrative rejection.

    3. Most curious: "[...B]urnham was offered an opportunity to withdraw the application but refused to do so..."

    Was this a COI-induced Burnham face-saving ploy? Can a grant application be withdrawn AFTER it has been rejected (administratively or otherwise) but prior to the public announcement of the rejection? Absurd.
    Would the withdrawal have been publicly announced?

    4. Was Murphys's press release manipulation the result of a COI?

    ReplyDelete