Friday, January 20, 2012

Text of IOM Responses to Questions About Selection of Its CIRM Witnesses

Here is the text of the questions posed this week by the California Stem Cell Report to the Institute of Medicine concerning its performance assessment of the $3 billion California stem cell agency and the IOM hearing Jan. 24 in San Francisco.

Also included is the text of the responses from the IOM, which is being paid $700,000 by the agency to conduct the study. The initial question was addressed to Harold Shapiro, chairman of the IOM-CIRM panel. Christine Stencel, senior media relations officer for the IOM, replied. The second question was addressed directly to Stencel.

Here are the questions sent Jan. 16 to Shapiro.
"Dr. Shapiro --

"I am working on an  article dealing with the upcoming meeting of the CIRM IOM panel Jan. 24. It will discuss the topics to be discussed and the witnesses. I would like your comments particularly in regard to the selection of the witnesses.

"Other than CIRM-connected individuals and media representatives(based on the agenda as of Jan. 16), they come from institutions that have received $356 million from the stem cell agency. Several of them have personally received grants. (UC Davis representatives were later added to the agenda, boosting the figure from $356 million to $418 million.)

"My questions:
"How were these witnesses selected? Does the IOM actually expect to receive forthright assessments of CIRM from individuals that have received hundreds of millions of dollars from the agency?

"Why weren't representatives from other well-informed California organizations invited, such as the Little Hoover Commission, which performed a lengthy study of CIRM, and the Center for Genetics and Society, which has followed CIRM since 2004.?  Are there any plans to seek them out for public comment?

"Why is 50 percent of the meeting being held behind closed doors? Who is expected to testify? What will be the nature of the business to be discussed? CIRM is a public enterprise, engaged in spending $6 billion (including interest) of taxpayer funds. It would seem that almost nothing that it does should be  barred from public scrutiny.

"Finally, who is Larry Fisher? He is listed on the IOM agenda as having a connection with the Los Angeles Times. However, an employee of the Times tells me that Fisher is not listed in any of the directories that he has access to.

"Dr. Shapiro, I will carry any comments that you make verbatim on the California Stem Cell Report. If you would like to add more than responses to the questions, I would welcome your thoughts."
Here is the response Jan. 17 from Stencel.
"Dr. Shapiro forwarded your query to the IOM for response. Our offices were closed yesterday for the MLK holiday, so we are catching up on all the correspondence we’ve received. The upcoming meeting is one of several means by which the committee will gather information and perspectives to inform its deliberations. The list of presenters and topics you see on the agenda reflect information and insights that the committee considered useful at this point in its work. This meeting is not the sole means by which committee members will gather information. For example, you will note that there are links to surveys posted on the project page (http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Research/CIRMReview.aspx) on the IOM website that request information from a variety of sources. The committee has also requested specific data from CIRM; a list of what was requested is in the Public Access File for this study, which is accessible via the Public Access Records Office. In addition, the committee expects to hold another information gathering meeting in California later this year.

"To your query about the extent to which the meeting is open, the committee is holding a day-long open meeting to gather information on Jan. 24. The closed portion of the meeting will be devoted to internal committee discussions; there will be no presentations. This is per the National Academies study process. Please see Stage 3 in the explanation of the National Academies study process on this webpage: http://www.nationalacademies.org/studyprocess/index.html. 

"To your question about Mr. Fisher, due to an oversight in drafting the agenda, he is misidentified as being affiliated with the LA Times. As the agenda you last saw indicated, he was an invited speaker, but since he has not responded, he will not be speaking at the meeting and is being removed from the agenda.

"Thank you for your ongoing interest in this IOM review."
Here are the California Stem Cell Report questions Jan. 17 to Stencel:
"I understand that some members of the CIRM - IOM panel made a publicly unannounced trip to California to visit some recipient institutions. What was the purpose of the trip? Who went? How long did it last? What institutions were visited? Who put together the agenda for the visit? Was it at the invitation of CIRM and facilitated by CIRM? Did the traveling members of the panel meet with any representatives of institutions or groups that have not received CIRM funds? Please feel free to add any other thoughts on this subject if you wish. Thank you."
Here is Stencel's response:
"Harold Shapiro and Terry Magnuson, who had been asked to serve as chair and vice chair of the committee, visited CIRM and two universities conducting stem cell research in September 2011 before the full committee was assembled.  Drs. Shapiro and Magnuson wanted to visit CIRM to gain a better understanding of the task that their committee, when formed, would be undertaking given the many questions being posed (per Statement of Task) and the limited timeframe to complete the review. They also met with leaders of Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco and toured laboratories on the two campuses to get a better feel for the type of stem cell research supported by CIRM. IOM study director Adrienne Stith Butler accompanied them."
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