Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Patient Advocate Reed Defends Klein Donation to Stem Cell Agency

The California Stem Cell Report today received the following email from Don Reed, a patient advocate, who has long been involved in California stem cell agency affairs. Reed is vice president of public policy for Americans for Cures Foundation, a position he has held for some years. Americans for Cures is the personal lobbying organization created by Robert Klein, former chairman of the California stem cell agency. Reed said his opinions below are his own and may or may not reflect those of the foundation.
“I must take issue with your entry, 'Robert Klein Gives $21,630 to the California Stem Cell Agency,' May 05, 2013.
“When Bob Klein donated $21,630 to the California stem cell program (to allow scientists to attend a research conference in Japan) he was doing exactly what he always does: advancing research to ease suffering and save lives.  The scientists needed a way to attend a top-level conference. Believing in the benefits of researchers sharing thoughts, Bob paid for their trip.
“Unfortunately, your article appears to imply corrupt motivations.
“'A seemingly innocuous…gift…generated a wave of special favors for (Klein) that stretched out to include a gold mining multimillionaire from Canada.'.
A 'wave of special favors?'  The article states that 'Klein wanted to meet with the six science officers…'  and to get their impressions on the conference.
“Is that not natural? First, would it not be helpful to hear from the scientists if the trip was worth the time and expense? Second, Bob Klein works in real estate, a full-time job. He does not have the scientist’s automatic involvement to keep him up to speed on everything new in regenerative research. But he wants to know the latest: what is working, what is not. He is always eager for a chance to speak one-on-one with an expert.
“He met with a Canadian millionaire? Why is this shocking? The millionaire supports stem cell research; so does Bob. California is working closely with Canada on several projects; they pay their scientists, we pay ours; more bang for the buck. If there is a person with the resources and will to advance Canadian research, it is natural that Bob would want to develop a deeper interest in the shared research.
“And why should Klein be criticized for supporting a research project attempting to alleviate Alzheimer’s? He saw his own mother die of the disease, after losing the ability  to recognize her own son.  I am familiar with that particular Alzheimer’s project, and it had some amazing results, restoring memory to laboratory rats. This was a water maze test, and the rats recovered the memory of a pathway out of the water, which they had forgotten. To the best of my knowledge, no one else in the world had achieved memory return, and the project deserved the most serious consideration.  Yes, the board of directors voted against the Grants Working Group; it is not only their right but their responsibility to exercise judgment, and not merely be a rubber stamp for the GWG.
“There is also the matter of free speech. Anybody else in California can come to the meetings of the program and voice their opinion—why should Klein be denied the right to voice his opinion?
“Bob Klein owns no stem cell stock, no biomedical enterprises. Financially, supporting stem cell research has cost him a great deal. This is the man who led the fight to build the California stem cell program, donating roughly six million dollars, taking out loans on his house to help finance Proposition 71. And, for six years (without salary) he worked full-time as Chair of the Board of the oversight committee. Physically and emotionally, it has been an exhausting decade for him. He has not profited in any way, except to see the advancement of research for cure.
“Passing a $3 billion stem cell program in the midst of a recession was like relocating Mount Everest—seemingly impossible, but he did it anyway. He moved the mountain. Thousands of people helped, but one man made it possible. Without Bob Klein, California would not have the greatest stem cell program in the world: challenging diseases considered incurable since the dawn of time. That he should continue to support it, with his dollars, time, energy and creativity, is commendable.
“Sometimes a good deed is just that: no sinister motivations, no secret agendas-- just a positive action which benefits all.”  
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