Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sacramento Bee: Ongoing Conflict Problems No Help for Future Funding of Stem Cell Agency

The Sacramento Bee says conflict of interest problems continue to trouble the California stem cell agency despite its assertions that it has “turned a page” on the issues.

In an editorial Saturday, The Bee said that CIRM Chairman Jonathan Thomas “has vowed to be aggressive in avoiding conflicts in dispersing millions of public dollars for stem cell research. Yet serious conflicts continue to be revealed involving CIRM.”

The Bee cited articles on the California Stem Cell Report earlier this month about a $21,630 gift by its former chairman, Robert Klein, and the employment by Klein of Vice Chairman Art Torres. The Bee said the situation “throws into question a $20 million grant awarded last year to StemCells Inc., a company that wants to transplant neural stem cells to treat Alzheimer's disease.” (See herehere and here)

The Bee also cited the case of Lee Hood, an internationally renown scientist who violated the agency's conflict of interest policy. Hood failed to disclose to CIRM a conflict involving an application that he was reviewing on behalf of the agency. The Bee said the agency's failure to detect the conflict was “serious oversight."

Eight readers commented on the editorial and agency, generally unfavorably about CIRM.

But reader “bchild” said,
“It took a couple years for them to start funding projects and it may take years to see results. Wall Street got 1.5 trillion and the promise of 10x that if they get into trouble again, the scientists (and their business buds) just want a couple billion...In the end who do you trust more with public money? At least there is the appearance of public benefit here..."
The Bee concluded,
“None of this helps CIRM's reputation in being fair and impartial in spending $3 billion in public funds. It surely won't help the institute's standing with the Legislature and the public, should it need help staying in operation when its funding is exhausted in a few years.”
The editorial was also carried by at least one other paper in the McClatchy chain.
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