Friday, June 26, 2009

CIRM News Release on Little Hoover Commission Report

Here is the complete text of a CIRM news release circulated to some reporters today in connection with recommendations by the Little Hoover Commission. As of this writing, the release has not been posted on the CIRM Web site.

For Immediate Release Contact: Don Gibbons
415-740-5855 (mobile)

CIRM Responds to Recommendations of the Little Hoover Commission

Sacramento, Calif., June 24, 2009 – The leaders of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state stem cell agency, said today that they were disappointed that the Little Hoover Commission chose to release a report with recommendations that, if enacted by the legislature, would slow the agency’s progress toward cures.

The agency believes that many of the recommendations made by the commission are based on an incomplete understanding of the agency’s operation and are so sweeping they would require another ballot initiative to amend Proposition 71, which created the agency. If enacted by the Legislature and signed by the governor the recommendations would dramatically disrupt and delay the agency’s push to achieve its mission of delivering therapies to patients. In addition, any attempt to enact the changes through legislation rather than by a vote of the people would likely result in a court challenge, which would be costly and time consuming.

The Commissioners have publicly acknowledged that CIRM’s existing structure is quite successful in allocating research funds in a manner that has garnered respect from researchers in the state, nationally and internationally. The Commissioner’s have also acknowledged that multiple audits and court reviews have shown that CIRM is managing potential conflicts of interest well.

“To disrupt and delay the agency’s critical work for a year, or even six months, because of what the Commission’s staff has called ‘perception’ issues is unacceptable,” said Robert Klein chair of CIRM’s governing board. “Let them talk perception to patients who miss out on a therapeutic breakthrough that would have saved their lives because the agency has been paralyzed by a sweeping reorganization. The will of seven million voters who approved this highly functional structure should be respected. I would hope the legislature will not devote any of its valuable time to this measure that has little chance of benefiting the state while it has great potential to do harm.”

Specific fallacies of the report:
• The board is too large and unwieldy. With 29 members it is similar in size to the UC Regents (26) and the California Judicial Council (28). On all three boards, size has afforded a diverse membership that brings a needed breadth of expertise.
• There are no independent voices and as a result there are perceptions of conflicts. There are many board members with no ties to organizations that receive grants and those who are from institutions do not participate in even the discussion of grant applications from their institutions. The Court of Appeals noted, “by approving Proposition 71 the voters have determined that the advantages of permitting particularly knowledgeable persons to decide which research projects to fund outweigh any concerns that these decisions may be influenced by the personal or professional interests of those members.
• Reduce politicalization of the board by letting the governor make all but four appointments. The current process, which divides the appointing authority between the State’s four constitutional officers and the UC Chancellors, is a much more effective means of assuring no one political agenda can shape the board and in turn the science CIRM funds.
• The division of authority between the board chair and the agency president is not effective. Proposition 71 created a clear division of responsibility with an executive chair providing financial leadership and a president providing scientific leadership. Current president Alan Trounson and board chair Klein have both publicly stated that this division is working well for the agency.

One of the key objectives of Proposition 71 was to provide stability and predictability to a research-funding program. The inevitable delays that would be caused if the Commission’s recommendations were enacted by the legislature would disrupt California laboratories the length of the state and slow progress to cures.

Related Media:
Videos explaining stem cell research are available on the CIRM YouTube site.
Stem cell images are available at the CIRM Flickr site. These are available for use with credit to the scientist listed in the caption.

About CIRM CIRM was established in November, 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The statewide ballot measure, which provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions, was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and called for the establishment of an entity to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities, and other vital research opportunities. To date, the CIRM governing board has approved 279 research and facility grants totaling more than $693 million, making CIRM the largest source of funding for human embryonic stem cell research in the world. For more information, please visit

1 comment:

  1. Jeff Sheehy3:16 PM

    I have a big problem with the automatic rejection of the Little Hoover Commission recommendations before the ICOC has considered the report.

    On whose authority are thousands of dollars of lobbying, communications, and legal resources being spent opposing this report? The legislature requested this report and to oppose in this knee jerk fashion could properly and reasonably offend those legislators who supported the engagement of the Little Hoover Commission.

    I personally am not sure that I think all parts of the report are flawed. The 50 employee limit and the 15 member cap on the outside scientists for the Grants Working Group are two issues most ICOC members would agree could use revision.

    I think the ICOC should take a position, not the agency. And, the ICOC should take the position after thoroughly analyzing the report--ie, after letting the Legislative sub-committee review it.

    The reaction of the agency to the report suggests a renegade agency outside the control of its board or the State of California.