Friday, May 04, 2012

Kudos to CIRM: Stem Cell Agency Sticks with Full Financial Disclosure

A key panel of directors of the $3 billion California stem cell agency yesterday voted unanimously to retain full public disclosure of the financial interests of its directors and top executives.

The director's Governance Subcommittee bypassed a proposal that would have substantially weakened disclosure at a time when the agency is moving closer to industry in an effort to develop cures.

"Because of CIRM's unique mission and the agency's longstanding commitment to transparency," said Kevin McCormack, the agency's spokesman, "they believed that CIRM should continue to set an example by requiring the broadest disclosure of members of the board and high level staff."

Currently CIRM board members and top executives must disclose all their investments and income – in a general way – along with California real property that they hold. Under the rejected changes, disclosures would have instead been required only "if the business entity or source of income is of the type to receive grants or other monies from or through the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine." 

The proposed changes would also have relieved CIRM officials of reporting investment in or income from venture capital or other firms that may be engaged in financing biotech or stem cell enterprises, since the firms do not receive cash from CIRM or engage in biomedical research.

The subcommittee's action will go before the full CIRM board later this month, where it is expected to be ratified. 

Our take? The Governance Subcommittee took the right action and is to be commended for going beyond the letter of the law. The integrity and credibility of CIRM are paramount. As the California Stem Cell Report wrote last week, narrowing disclosure would only have engendered suspicion and unnecessarily raised questions about the conduct of the agency as it embarks on an aggressive push for stem cell cures.

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