Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Conflict of Interest: California Stem Cell Agency Releases More Documents in Sladek Violation

The California stem cell agency today released its letter to leaders of the California legislature concerning the conflict of interest violation by the scientist who was then chairman of the panel that makes the de facto decisions on hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants.

The agency also posted the review summary of the application involved in the conflict of interest, which had been missing from its web site.

The incident occurred last April, but was not publicly disclosed by the $3 billion research enterprise until questions were raised this month by the California Stem Cell Report. The case involved John Sladek of the University of Colorado in Denver, then chairman of the CIRM grant review group, which makes decisions on the hundreds of grant applications. The CIRM board of directors has final approval but it almost never overturns a favorable recommendation from the grant panel.

Sladek resigned from the review group after CIRM staff discovered the conflict following the March 17 review session. CIRM called it a "technical violation."

The information provided today by CIRM added some details to the matter, including Sladek's statement that the conflict was inadvertent on his part.

The June 15 letter to the speaker of the state Assembly and the leader of the state Senate was labelled "confidential disclosure." Signed by then CIRM Chairman Robert Klein, it said,
"While preparing the public summary for Basic Biology III Awards Application No. RB3-02119, CIRM staff discovered that Dr. Sladek had co-authored two papers in the last three years with a researcher on the application. Although the researcher’s name was included on the CIRM conflict of interest form, Dr. Sladek did not disclose these publications to CIRM."
As reported earlier, Sladek's participation did not affect the outcome on the application, which was not recommended for funding.

As is CIRM's practice, the review summary of the grant application did not identify the scientist seeking funding. The summary listed one reviewer with an unspecified conflict, Ali Brivanlou of Rockefeller University.

The letter was provided by CIRM at the request of the California Stem Cell Report, which also asked for the review summary of the grant application after discovering it was missing. James Harrison, outside counsel to the agency, said in an email that the summary was not posted because of a "programming error."

The summary can be found here. Here is the letter.Sladek/CIRM Conflict of Interest Letter to California Legislative Leadership

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