Friday, February 20, 2009

A Caution about Excessive Industry Coziness at CIRM

A longtime observer of the California stem cell agency is warning that the $3 billion enterprise is on the verge of becoming much too intimate with industry.

John M. Simpson
, stem cell project director of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., said that a plan to create an industry biotech advisory group for CIRM is "fraught with pitfalls."

Writing on his organization's blog on Feb. 19, he said,
"Who picks the members? What would be the criteria for selection? Will the meetings be public? Will these advisors also be applying for grants?"
He noted that four members of the CIRM board of directors hold their positions because of their ties to the life sciences industry. Conducting special, public meetings with industry is okay, Simpson said. Biotech lobbyists can also take part in regular meetings of the agency.

But Simpson wrote,
"Creating an industry special interest group to whisper in the ears of CIRM executives is just wrong-headed.  What do you say to biotech companies not on the panel? Will there be an advisory group from academia, another from patient advocates and another advisory group from the public?

"But that's exactly what the ICOC (the CIRM board) and its committees are supposed to do with their public meetings.  Selecting some industry representatives and giving them special treatment and access to CIRM's leadership is simply wrong."
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