Klein, as most of you know, is chairman of the agency that this spring will be giving away $262 million for new stem cell lab construction. He is also one of the 29 members of the CIRM Oversight Committee that will ultimately decide which of the lab grant applicants will receive cash to build their projects.
One of the criteria for receiving a multimillion dollar grant from CIRM is a requirement for matching funds – the more dough you can bring to the table, the more competitive will be your application.
Last month we asked Klein about scuttlebutt that he was assisting some applicants in raising matching funds. Basically he said yes, but noted that he is not dealing with any of the specifics of the applications – just helping to raise funds.
He said that one of his roles as chairman of CIRM is to raise funds for stem cell research. He said that if potential donors for a lab grant project call him concerning matters of public record, he has been willing to speak with them. Of course, he noted he is prohibited from discussing the application itself.
We asked him if all applicants knew that he was available to help in raising matching funds. He pointed to the transcript of the Facilities Working Group in November in which he indicated he was willing to assist. He said all applicants have been told to read the transcripts of the facilities group.
Klein said his goal is to raise as much money as possible so that all the applications can be approved. He also said that some applicants with large amounts of resources may be asked to reduce the amount of money they are seeking so that all applicants can be funded.
Obviously, Klein's assistance raises questions about fairness. Are all applicants aware that he is available to assist? He said he may notify them. Is it appropriate for a member of the Oversight Committee to be so directly involved with applicants that he must later sit in judgment on? Klein said his overriding concern is to raise funds for stem cell research and help develop cures for millions.
Here is the text of the November transcript that Klein cited. It came during an exchange with a CIRM attorney, who affirmed that Klein's comments below were correct.
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"I previously talked to various members of this, chairman and vice chairman, I think, and/or other members, to make sure that we were considering the fact that there may be donations from donors who come to us. And those donors who are related to some applicant who has publicly on file an application, while we can't talk to the donor about the application, the donor can ask us to see the history, which is a public record, of what grants have been approved for that institution or other historical information related to that institution.
"So the point is we can't talk to the institutions about their applications, but it's my understanding that doesn't mean we can't answer questions as to publicly available information of donors who want to know about the particular institution where we have a public history of making grants that we can point them to."