Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Text of CIRM Comments on Lee Hood Questions

Here is the full text of the statement today by Kevin McCormack, senior director for public communications at the California stem cell agency, in connection with the conflict of interest issue involving Lee Hood, president of Institute for Systems Biology of Seattle, Wash. See here for a story on the matter.

McCormack's comments came in response to the following questions from the California Stem Cell Report.
“Did (CIRM President Alan) Trounson recruit Hood to serve on the grants working group?
“Does CIRM perform any sort of serious examination of the statements of interests of its scientific reviewers prior to specific review sessions. The conflict involving Weissman and Hood was easily detected by a Google search. The first two entries on the search term "lee hood irv weissman" raise serious red flags. Additionally, I imagine it is more than common knowledge among many in the scientific community that these two scientists are longtime friends.”
Here is McCormack's reply,
“Alan helps recruit many reviewers, including in this case Dr. Hood, but he is not involved in assigning reviewers to individual applications. Furthermore he expects all reviewers to declare whatever conflicts they have.  
“Yes, we do a serious examination of statements of interest from all our reviewers. However, this conflict was not identified by the reviewer either in the financial disclosure statement or identified in the conflict of interest list. Normally we do not check Google for all possible combinations of 15 GWG reviewers times about 200 individuals listed in these applications. That would be about 3000 independent Google searches to identify a possible conflict. While this relationship may be known to some it certainly was not known to the CIRM staff who checked the conflicts. If it had been they would have raised it before the meeting.

“It's also important to point out that Dr. Hood was a new member of this review panel and was not familiar with our conflict of interest rules. This was clearly a case of a new reviewer making an innocent error.

“Finally, CIRM’s rules are stricter than state law, and this would not have been a conflict under California conflict of interest law.”
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