Thursday, June 19, 2014

California's Trounson Wants to 'Shame' the 'Malefactors' of Stem Cell Medicine

Alan Trounson at Cornell
Cornell photo
The former president of the California stem cell agency, Alan Trounson, has kept busy since leaving his post last month. Just this week he authored an opinion piece in The Scientist. Earlier this month he was at Cornell decrying the lack of federal funding for research.

In his article in The Scientist, Trounson called for the outing of stem cell clinics that sell untested and expensive treatments to desperate people.  “Malefactors” is what he called them.

He wrote,
 “It is time that a ‘shame file’ of unregistered and unscientific treatment centers is constructed and widely communicated to warn patients of the dangers of these unregulated and inadequately managed therapies being offered internationally.”
Trounson suggested that the Institute of Medicine could host such a file and help protect uninformed patients. But he also said Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, an industry group that is also engaged in lobbying, could do better in helping to expose dubious stem cell clinics.

He said,
“While this organization and its members do not approve of unregistered clinical trials, they ought to be more active in ensuring the scientific integrity of all studies going forward.”
Trounson said that the $70 million Alpha clinic effort that he championed at the California stem cell agency is also aimed at tackling the problem. Grant applications in that program are due to be reviewed this fall. 

Trounson warned that fringe stem cell clinics damage the entire field.
“The activities of these medical tourism centers are a major barrier to the delivery of genuine cell therapeutic clinical trials by bringing the whole field of cell-based therapies into disrepute.”
At Cornell on June 6, Trounson, who is a senior scientific advisor at CIRM until the end of this month, was the keynote speaker for a symposium on stem cells that also featured broadcast journalist Charlie Rose.

The university put out an item on the appearance. Trounson was quoted as saying,
"The [federal] government looks handicapped in this area. You've got a budget situation where you cannot seem to put more money into research — in fact, less money is going into research. We have to convince the people elected to government that this is an incredible revolution and that we need to keep funding the science."
That could be a pitch for the California stem cell agency as well. It is scheduled to run out of money for new grants in less than three years and is currently looking at ways to develop new funding sources.
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