Friday, January 13, 2006

Chronicle: CIRM Needs Careful Regulation

The San Francisco Chronicle said today the Korean stem cell scandal is a “cautionary tale” that shows that the California stem cell agency needs additional public regulation.

The editorial in today’s paper said:

"What is to prevent similar fraud and ethical lapses from happening here in California, where voters agreed to spend $3 billion on stem-cell research?
"'Scientists,' responded Zach Hall, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the funding entity created by Prop. 71. Warning that every industry has the potential for an Enron, Hall touted the American system of peer review as the best way to expose rogue scientists and bad science and to keep research-funding decisions apart from undue political, religious or geographic influences. 'What will not stop this from happening is government oversight,' he said.
"In a world of 'pure' science, maybe. But stem-cell research is, at this point, anything but pure. Scientists rail about the 'political'interference in their work by the religious-right aligned Bush administration, but what was the campaign launched by the stem-cell research proponents to sell the stem-cell bonds, if not political? With business and political capital -- not to mention the state's image as a technological innovator -- on the line, the stem-cell institute needs oversight, both regulatory and scientific."

The editorial continued:
"Questions remain about the sourcing of the human eggs and about which avenues of research are best pursued with the taxpayers' money. Would voters embrace research that might require hundreds of human eggs to produce a therapy for a single person? If these rules are adopted, who enforces them? Are there punishments for infractions?
"These matters of great public concern should be subject to government regulation -- especially when taxpayers are picking up the multi-billion-dollar tab for this research."

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