Monday, September 24, 2007

Trounson Expands on His International Perspective

The new president of the California stem cell agency, Alan Trounson, is expressing a strong interest in engaging scientists elsewhere in the world and nation in the state's $3 billion research program, although he said such an effort may require funding from outside the agency.

In response to questions from the California Stem Cell Report, the Australian scientist (see photo) elaborated via email on his statements at the time of his selection as the head of the world's largest single funding source for human embryonic stem cell research.

Trounson had said his new assignment at CIRM provided an opportunity to engage internationally with other groups to avoid duplication of effort and speed development of cures. However, state law concerning CIRM requires virtually all of its efforts to be focused within California, requirements that earlier this year surfaced in connection with approval of a $2.6 million research grant to a non-profit, Los Angeles subsidiary of a South Korean organization, CHA Health Systems.

The CHA grant is still apparently under an administrative compliance review along with many others approved at the same time in March. The grant was not mentioned in the questions we submitted to Trounson nor did he speak specifically to it. We asked him only to elaborate on his statement concerning efforts with other nations and states. Trounson said,
"I would like to engage research groups working in other states and particular countries in collaborations with Californian scientists and clinicians. This might be achieved by having jointly funded workshops, study programs, scientific exchanges, research projects and clinical trials. I need to find out whether CIRM funds can be used in this way or whether we need to find other mechanisms to do this. The aim is to avoid duplication and accelerate the application of discoveries into the clinic - this is the primary outcome sought and needed by Californians."
Other questions and Trounson's responses:

CSCR: What are the three greatest challenges facing you at CIRM?

"1. Integrating the pipeline of stem cell discovery, translation and application in the clinic
"2. Demonstration of therapeutic benefit in a variety of applications
"3. Achieving a full comprehension by education, of the nature and potential benefits of stem cells throughout the whole community."

CSCR: Working in California state government also means dealing with open records and open meeting laws which sometimes have given pause to others new to such requirements. What is your comfort level with such laws?

Trounson: "Transparency is a simpler form of conducting an activity such as that involving the CIRM, where the entire community has an interest. I welcome the open format."

CSCR: Other observations you feel are important?

"I need time to focus on and analyze the efficiency of delivery of the CIRM strategy and to format priorities for the CIRM building on the very sound base achieved by the founders."

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