Monday, March 16, 2009

Consumer Watchdog: New Role Needed for CIRM

In an article that was eclipsed last week by the vice chair and other affairs at the CIRM board meeting, one longtime observer of the California stem cell scene says the agency needs to step back, hand over the reins to the federal government and redefine its role.

John M. SimpsonI(see photo), stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., made the comments in an op-ed piece March 12 in The Sacramento Bee.

He wrote,

"The California program has yet to produce cures; I believe it ultimately will.

"But the new active federal role demands a new CIRM approach to maximize the scientific benefits of its grants. What's needed is a close partnership with the federal National Institutes of Health, in which the state's institute is the junior partner. And CIRM needs to emphasize science, not hype. For its part, the NIH must acknowledge CIRM's contributions while the federal agency was largely out of the picture."

Simpson continued,

"Even if a few large egos are bruised, the challenge facing the state's institute is to relinquish leadership to the feds and figure out how to augment and complement the NIH efforts. There needs to be close collaboration between each organization's scientists.

"NIH emphasizes basic research. CIRM could emphasize funding later-stage translational, preclinical or even early-stage clinical trials. Federal law still prohibits using federal funds to derive new stem cell lines from embryos, though experiments can be funded once the cells lines are established. That is another opportunity for CIRM. The point is that the agency must determine where it adds the most value and concentrate efforts there."

Not all the readers of the Simpson piece agreed. One anonymous reader commented on The Bee website,

"This article is just more hype to try and divert state money from schools, hospitals, etc. and pour it into a 'rat hole' that has failed to produce anything of value."

The reader also wrote,

"Why doesn't the Bee report on the financial problems facing CIRM and it's failure to be able to fund grants they have already 'awarded.'. Where are the stories about CIRM's pending funding shortfall's The taxpayers need the facts in order to judge this mess. The best CIRM can deliver is paying its own executives and Washington lobbyists! "

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