Saturday, December 08, 2007

CIRM Deflecting Away From Directors on Conflict Problems

The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News carried stories today on the conflict-of-interest flap at the California stem cell agency and the rejection of a 10 grant applications seeking perhaps $25 million.

Notably missing from the coverage was the Los Angeles Times, the largest newspaper in the state, which had two of its local institutions, UCLA and USC, lose applications. CIRM put out a news release on the problem on Friday after the story was broken by Russell Sabin of the San Francisco Chronicle. The issue involves violation of the agency's conflict of interest policy by members of its board of directors who wrote letters in support of the application.

CIRM's news release and subsequent comments by agency spokespersons pointed away from the directors and towards language in the application, which required letters of support from either the dean of the applicant's institution or the departmental head.

At least two of today's stories noted that other institutions with members on the CIRM filed applications without violating conflict of interest rules.

Jim Downing of the Bee wrote:
"Claire Pomeroy, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, sits on the agency's board. Her school's applicants were not hit by Friday's action because their letters of recommendation were written by an associate dean.

"'We have a very clear barrier,' said UC Davis School of Medicine spokesman Charles Casey. "(Pomeroy) did not even know who we were submitting for those faculty grant awards."
Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Salk and Burnham both reported no problems with their applications. Stanford apparently is okay as well. All three have representatives on the CIRM board.

Somers also provided an update on the conflict of interest problem involving John Reed, president of the Burnham Institute, and his attempt to influence a grant last summer. She wrote:

"Board member and AIDS activist Jeff Sheehy said he is not clamoring for Reed's resignation, but he wants an acknowledgment that there was a 'serious violation of an important rule.'

"'My problem is that we are acting like nothing happened,' Sheehy said.

"He has asked for a discussion of the matter to be placed on the agenda for the meeting Wednesday.

"Also that day, the board will decide what to do with the remaining 49 faculty grant applications. It could vote to award all or some of the grant money. Or it could decide to toss out the entire grant round and start over."

Besides The Bee and San Diego, here are links to the stories in the Chronicle and Mercury News.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story carried the figure $15 million in the first paragraph. The actual figure appears to be closer to $25 million.)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:11 AM

    Its clearly time to dispense with the notion that there's anything independent about the "independent citizen's advisory committee." No amount of lipstick can disguise the fact that these people are all pigs at the public trough.