Sunday, November 16, 2014

CIRM Board Member Prieto on 10-year Performance of Stem Cell Agency

The following is the text of what Francisco Prieto, a 10-year veteran of the governing board of the California stem cell agency, had to say about its performance over the last decade.

He commented for a freelance article written by David Jensen, the publisher of this blog, that appeared in today's edition of The Sacramento Bee. Prieto and other board members queried were told that it was likely that their comments would be severely limited in the article in The Bee because of the space limitations of the print media. They were also told that the full text of their comments would be carried on this Web site.

Francisco Prieto
CIRM photo
They were additionally informed that the print article would address such questions as whether the work of the agency would be worth its $6 billion cost(including interest), whether it had fulfilled the expectations of voters in 2004 along with discussing the achievements and shortcomings of the agency.

Here is what Prieto, a Sacramento physician and patient advocate member of the board, said via email.
“Has the agency fulfilled the promises of the 2004 campaign? 
“I think that largely, yes, it has. The principal promise of the prop 71 campaign was that here in California, we would not abandon or throttle this incredibly promising avenue of research, as the Federal administration was threatening to do at that time, and instead would try to push it forward. The promise was that we would aggressively push towards finding cures for the debilitating chronic diseases that are responsible for most of our chronic illnesses, premature death and healthcare expenses. CIRM has made that push, and has made California probably the preeminent site for stem cell research in the world. 
“Will its efforts be worth the $6-$7 billion that will have been spent, including interest? 
“This will be hard to judge until we see what the results are of some of the stem cell related treatments that are just now entering or about to enter clinical trials. If even 1 or 2 of the major ones result in a cure for something like diabetes or one of the major cancers that some of our CIRM funded researchers are working on, I think we will have to consider that it was a bargain. 
“What are its current achievements and shortcomings? 
This one could go on much longer and I'm afraid I don't really have the time right now. I think to some extent I answered this above.  California has become one of if not the Center for stem cell research in the world. We could have done better, especially early in the history of the agency in terms of transparency, and could have perhaps involved the public more in the discussions of our priorities. Some of the conflict of interest issues and events that came up particularly in the recent past caught us by surprise, and I wish we could have foreseen them, but I'm glad once they happened that CIRM and our new Pres. responded appropriately. 
“I think our understanding of this field is going to some day (soon, I hope) transform medicine and make the things I do every day look as primitive as leeches and blood letting.  Speaking of which, I have patients waiting so I’m afraid I need to go find those leeches.”


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