Tuesday, January 25, 2011

IOM Study of California Stem Cell Agency Still Pending

Back in August, directors of the California stem cell agency authorized a $615,000 study of their $3 billion enterprise by the prestigious Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Science.

As of last week, a contract for the work had not been signed, although the two-year study was originally scheduled to be completed by September 2012 -- in time for a ballot measure campaign for an additional $3 billion-$5 billion in bond funding for CIRM.

According to the agency's press release on the study, the IOM study would be aimed at demonstrating "public accountability" and would provide "an independent evaluation of the performance and standards" at CIRM. Some CIRM directors have also expressed hope that the findings would help generate support for the ballot measure for more cash.

In response to a question about the status of the effort, Don Gibbons, chief communications officer for CIRM, said the contract is still being negotiated but provided no further details.

Last summer, CIRM directors approved the project on a voice vote with only one dissent. The study would cover virtually all of CIRM's activities, including areas that were examined closely last fall by CIRM's external review committee. When directors approved the IOM study, they also specified that IOM examine the "output of awarded grants, including their economic impact."

The IOM effort would be the third in a series of recent reports on CIRM. This year, the agency is also required, under a new state law, to commission the first-ever performance audit of its activities.

Duane Roth, co- vice chairman of CIRM and a San Diego businessman, cast the lone no vote. He raised questions about the staff time needed for the report (the external review took at least 2,000 hours). Roth also told directors,
"I would just caution that the outcome on something like this can cut both ways. And to go in just sort of blind trust that they're going reach the conclusion you want them to reach, I don't think is a foregone conclusion. So you at least ought to think about the downside of a rather critical one."
Directors specified that "donor funds" be used to pay for the study as opposed to "taxpayer funds," meaning cash from state bond sales, which is the only major funding available to CIRM. Some private donors have contributed money (now roughly $3.5 million) to CIRM. Once the money is in the hands of CIRM, however, it all belongs to the taxpayers, although the donor funds may be used for purposes that are barred for bond funds. Spending the donor cash on a study also means that the funds will not be available for research or some other purpose.

The IOM has proposed that a panel of 14 persons prepare the report. It would meet four times. Two public workshops would be held in California. The report would be subject to a peer review process and "appropriate institutional review procedures." The final report would be delivered to CIRM after 12 to 13 months and at least 10 days prior to its public release.

You can read what was proposed in August below.
Proposed IOM study of California stem cell agency Aug. 2010

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:31 PM

    The IOM report will never happen. An independent analysis of CIRM is the last thing those bought off insiders want. They much prefer a piece of fluff like the one they got from Bernstein et al...you know, something where they can offer the evaluating committee chair a $400k plus part-time gig and then he writes a glowing report.
    I don't think the IOM plays that way.


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