Friday, February 03, 2012

CGS: Broader Perspective Needed in IOM-CIRM Performance Evaluation

The Center for Genetics and Society has filed a brief statement with the Institute of Medicine panel examining the performance of the California stem cell agency, expressing the hope that the inquiry will include "a broader range of sources."

Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Berkeley group, said that "a meaningful review by (the IOM) committee could make an important contribution to needed changes at the agency." Darnovsky's organization has followed the stem cell effort since its inception.

She noted that CIRM is "a public agency spending increasingly scarce public resources" and has raised the possibility of seeking another multibillion dollar bond measure from voters.

The IOM inquiry has finished half of its public process and is yet to hear an independent analysis of the stem cell agency, which is paying $700,000 for the study.

Earlier Darnovsky told the California Stem Cell Report that the Institute of Medicine has not contacted her organization for comments, although she has spoken with the public relations person for the IOM.

Here is the text of Darnovsky's statement sent to the IOM.
"The Center for Genetics and Society is a public interest organization working to ensure responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic and reproductive technologies.  We support embryonic stem cell research, but have been concerned for some years about a number of aspects of the field, and of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine in particular.

"We have been closely following CIRM since the campaign for Proposition 71 that established it in 2004. We have attended numerous meetings of the agency’s governing board and Standards Working Group, worked with other public interest groups who share our concerns about CIRM, written frequently about CIRM in our publications, and been cited dozens of times in articles about CIRM in key state and national news outlets.

"In 2006, we published The California Stem Cell Program at One Year: A Progress Report, which assessed CIRM's performance to that date and offered recommendations. See

"In 2008, CGS policy analyst Jesse Reynolds gave invited testimony to the Little Hoover Commission’s hearing on CIRM. See

"We are encouraged that the Institute of Medicine is undertaking an independent assessment of CIRM, though we hope that you will invite input from a broader range of sources than were represented at the meeting last month in San Francisco. With key questions about the future of CIRM unresolved, and its leadership contemplating a campaign for another bond measure.

"As I wrote in a recent commentary that expressed our disappointment with the roster of speakers at last month’s hearing,

"Ballot measure or no ballot measure, CIRM will continue to disperse the public money it controls – another billion and a half dollars. This is a public agency spending increasingly scarce public resources. It is funding a field of research in which we place great hopes for medical and scientific advances. These factors make it all the more crucial that CIRM follow the basics of good governance and public accountability, and eschew the hyperbole and exaggerated promises that have tainted stem cell research for so long.


"Please let us know if we can be of help. We would be very glad to share our insights and recommendations."

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