Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Scathing Commentary on CIRM from San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune today blistered the California stem cell agency in an editorial calling for greater transparency and a "much less blithe attitude about conflicts of interest."

The editorial carried the headline: "Stem-cell shenanigans / Lawmakers should force state institute to shape up." The San Diego paper said,
"This reeks. It increasingly appears as if the Legislature needs to save CIRM from itself. The institute’s good work does not excuse its machinations."
The Union-Tribune, whose circulation area includes one of the nation's hotbeds of biotech, said that it supported Prop. 71, the measure that created the stem cell agency in 2004, and has backed the agency since then .

The newspaper continued,
"Nevertheless, a June 2009 report by the Little Hoover Commission, a state watchdog group, made a strong and convincing case that CIRM had fundamental conflict-of-interest problems. Those overseeing CIRM often also won grants from the agency.

"Dismayingly, CIRM dismissed the criticism out of hand, which only raised more eyebrows. This is not how a public agency is supposed to act when legitimate ethical concerns are raised by a respected public watchdog.

"Now, however, the Legislature has the opportunity to compel CIRM to take these concerns seriously. Institute officials say they are hamstrung by a provision in Proposition 71 that puts a 50-employee limit on CIRM and are asking for a change in state law.

"Lawmakers must do so only if the legislation also includes specific provisions requiring much more transparency in how management and grant decisions are made and a much less blithe attitude about conflicts of interest."

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