Friday, January 18, 2013

Patient Advocate Says IOM Recommendations Would 'Destroy' California Stem Cell Agency

California's “beloved,” $3 billion stem cell research program should not be altered despite recommendations from the most prestigious scientific organization of its kind. So says longtime patient advocate Don Reed of Fremont, Ca.

Reed says the recommendations by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) are a “threat” that would “destroy” an agency that “is like nothing else on earth.” Reed is urging other patient advocates to turn out at next week's critical meeting of the stem cell agency's board and lobby against alterations in how it does business.

Reed and CIRM's Amy Adams
World Stem Cell Summit photo
Reed is a fixture in stem cell circles nationally and in California and has been a regular at the stem cell agency's public meetings since 2004. He is also vice president of Americans for Cures, a private stem cell lobbying group created by Robert Klein when he was chairman of the stem cell agency,  formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM).

Reed has written twice about the IOM report on his blog with duplicate publication on the Huffington Post. Yesterday, he said IOM “defies” the voters' will when they created the stem cell agency in 2004. On Dec. 19, he said the $700,000, 17-month study was “staggeringly misguided.” He wrote,
“If its recommendations were enacted, they would silence stem cell patient advocate involvement, eliminate public debate on funding proposals, and delegate the real decisions to secret proceedings by an out-of-state-controlled board.”
Reed described the stem cell agency as “fantastic” and wrote,
“So why mess with it, in such a brutal and insulting manner?”
This writer has known Reed since the early days of the stem cell agency and respects him. But in this case he has many of his facts wrong. To mention just a few key points: Patient advocates would not be silenced; their role would be changed. Public comment would not be eliminated. Scientists could still appeal negative decisions by reviewers to the full board if they so choose, although the “extraordinary petition” process would be eliminated. The voters' will would not be defied; they provided for a mechanism for making changes in the stem cell program.

While Bob Klein has not been heard from publicly on the IOM report, some of Reed's comments reflect Klein's past positions against altering the agency. Klein, an attorney and real estate investment banker, might well be considered the father of the agency. He directed the writing of the 10,000-word measure, Prop. 71, that created the program and wrote much of ballot initiative himself. The initiative contained a detailed description of the qualifications for the chairman, which fit only one person in California. It was no surprise when he won the post.

In years past, Klein has been extraordinarily protective of the ballot measure, at one point boxing in the board on earlier proposals for changes that he disliked and that the IOM report now echoes.

In 2010, he was the prime advocate for commissioning the IOM report which he expected to serve as the basis for continued funding of the agency. It will run out of cash for new grants in 2017.

To keep the money rolling in, Klein said the IOM report would constitute a “gold standard” that would generate increased enthusiasm for the research.

According to the transcript of the Aug.18, 2010, governing board meeting, Klein declared,
“(We will) never convince the people that are adamant against us. But for the public and for the constituent groups that are reasoned and prepared to look at evidence, this is a very important validation that they can look to to separate out what is a false claim from real performance.”
Also writing yesterday about the IOM study was Bradley Fikes of the San Diego U-T, the dominant daily newspaper in that area.

He summarized Reed's latest item as well as this on the California Stem Cell Report yesterday. Fikes plans to file his own story within the next few days.

Feel free to file your own comments by clicking on the word “comment” below or with the stem cell agency at info@cirm.ca.gov. Anonymous comments are permitted on this blog.

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