Thursday, July 24, 2014

California Stem Cell Agency Scores on Early Coverage of Today's Trounson Story

Two media outlets were quick today to write about the Trounson Affair and the reaction from the California stem cell agency, but did not note what the agency itself described as the limited nature of its investigation into the matter.

They focused on what Randy Mills, the new president of CIRM, promised regarding his future employment and acceptance of gifts and travel. The upshot was a PR plus for the agency, which has been caught in a “bit of stink” since Alan Trounson, its former president, was named to the board of directors of a firm that has received $19.4 million from the agency.

John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., who has been sharply critical of the Trounson appointment, released a statement, declaring,
"CIRM President Randy Mills clearly recognizes the importance of ethics and personal integrity.  His formal agreement to refuse employment with a company CIRM has funded for at least a year after his departure proves he understands the potential for conflict and is committed to maintaining a high standard of integrity.   
"His action helps correct the damage  done to CIRM’s standing by former President Alan Trounson rashly and inappropriately joining the board of StemCells Inc, a mere week after leaving the agency.
 "Meanwhile, CIRM should make public all emails and letters between Trounson, StemCells Inc, and its employees and directors.” 
Ron Luety of the San Francisco  Business Times wrote that Mills’ action stopped short of rebuking Trounson.  Luety also said that Mills’ response seemed like a “no-brainer” but appeared necessary.  Simpson was quoted along with Mills.

Bradley Fikes of the San Diego U-T also quoted Simpson. Fikes additionally wrote,
“Mills made the right decision, said Jeanne Loring, a CIRM-funded stem cell researcher at The Scripps Research Institute.
"’There's a difference between what is legal and what is ethical,’ said Loring, who attended the meeting. ‘And he's going to be pushing the needle a lot more toward the ethical side without worrying whether he can get away with stuff.’"
It was Kevin McCormack, senior director of public communications for the agency, who told CIRM directors late in the meeting that the agency had been caught in a “bit of a stink” this past month as a result of the coverage. 
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