Tuesday, July 08, 2008

French, Stemagen, Trounson and Egg Shortages

Biopolitical Times, the blog of the Center for Genetics and Society of Oakland, Ca., took a look recently at ongoing events in the human egg debate, including some developments at the California stem cell agency.

Jesse Reynolds, who has followed the California stem cell movement for years, also commented about research involving Stemagen of San Diego, which has created the first human clonal embryos.

Among other things, Reynolds wrote,
"The medical staff treating the egg providers share the same address, supervisor, and authorship credits as the Stemagen researchers, in violation of requirements that medical personnel not have conflicts of interest with researchers, so that doctors’ duty of care toward women providing egg isn’t compromised."
Reynolds also pointed out a relationship between Stemagen and CIRM President Alan Trounson.

Reynolds wrote:
"He helped recruit his old friend Andrew French from their common homeland of Australia to serve as Stemagen's Chief Scientific Officer. And Trounson, French, and Stemagen CEO Samuel Wood authored a 2006 paper advocating cloning-based stem cell research. So it wasn't surprising when Trounson took his first opportunity... at CIRM Standards Working Group to call for undermining California's prohibition on paying women (beyond their expenses) to provide eggs for research, even though this policy is enshrined in Proposition 71, the statewide initiative that created CIRM, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine."
Reynold said that Susan Berke Fogel of Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research reported that Trounson and CIRM Chairman Robert Klein "tag-teamed a renewed effort to find a tortured interpretation of Proposition 71 that would allow paying women for eggs" at the CIRM directors' meeting last month. Reynolds said Klein "tried to force a discussion" that would have changed policy and circumvented the Standards Working Group.

We were present during the discussion that Fogel heard. However, we did not have the same impression. There was a discussion of the shortage of human eggs, basically a brief recap of what Trounson told the Standards Working Group last February. Our take is that Klein brought up the subject before the full CIRM board perhaps with intention of setting the stage for some sort of action later this year. That would be the politic thing to do if he wants changes in CIRM's current policies on eggs and cash.

Later this year, the Standards Working Group is expected to conduct a review of CIRM egg policies, probably sometime this fall.

However, Klein and Trounson have a high hurdle to clear. Prop. 71, which Klein says he authored, requires CIRM directors to set standards "prohibiting compensation to research donors or participants, while permitting reimbursement of expenses."

While Reynolds pointed out links between Trounson and French, he also reported that the relationship apparently did not benefit Stemagen recently. Its application for a new cell lines grant was "raked over the coals" by reviewers, according to Reynolds, who quotes them at some length.

We are asking CIRM and Stemagen if they have any comment on Reynolds' posting. We will carry it when we receive it.

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