Thursday, January 06, 2011

Klein Ballyhoos Stem Cell Effort as 'Forever Changing the Future of Human Suffering'

The chairman of the California stem cell ageny, Robert Klein, recently wrote an op-ed piece for the San Jose Business Journal replete with superlatives about the significance of the state's $3 billion research effort.

It represented the type of publicity that the agency will need to convince California voters to approve the roughly $5 billion, new bond issue that Klein is touting.

Klein is a man who loves effusive prose, and plenty was in evidence in his piece. “Far-reaching,” “huge difference,” “stem cell revolution” and a promise that the work of the California stem cell researchers “will begin to mature (in five to seven years), forever changing the future of human suffering” – all were part of the op-ed article.

Klein also trotted out some economic statistics that he has used before, but again with no source for the data. They may have come from a $300,000 economic impact study commissioned in 2009 by CIRM with orders that it “execute a vibrant and aggressive strategy to support the goals and initiatives of CIRM.” (See here and here and here..) The final report was originally scheduled for April 2010, but has never been released publicly. Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, said yesterday that the agency is now “shooting for later this month.”

The contract is held by LECG of Devon, Pa. As of last August (the most recent information available), the firm had been paid $75,000 on its contract, which was scheduled to terminate last Oct. 6.

Klein also cited a clinical trial involving UC San Diego with the clear implication that it was the result of CIRM-funded research.

Here is what John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog said about the claim in 2008.
“California’s stem cell agency overstated and hyped the importance of its funding in enabling clinical trials for a drug to treat a severe blood disorder...seriously undercutting the agency’s credibility and alienating those who support publicly funded stem cell research.”
His report followed our item on the research that quoted a scientist as saying that CIRM wrongly took credit for the research.

The field of stem cell science has been criticized for the hyperbole the surrounds it, much of which was evident in the 2004 election campaign that created the California stem cell agency. While some license is expected in any campaign, dubious claims can blow back on those who utter them as voters detect the flim-flam.

Did Klein go too far in his piece last week? Is CIRM creating a record of rhetorical excesses that will backfire?  Time will tell, but the agency can rest assured that those to want to block stem cell research will be parsing the agency's PR with considerable diligence. Sphere: Related Content

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