Friday, December 07, 2012

IOM Proposals for Overhaul at CIRM Win High Marks

The Institute of Medicine's recommendations for major changes at the California stem cell agency today received generally high marks from independent observers and critics.

Many of the proposals echoed suggestions from California's Little Hoover Commission, the state's good government agency. Asked for comment, Stuart Drown, the commission's executive director, said,
“The institute’s recommendations for much-needed changes to CIRM’s governance structure to provide greater efficiency, clarity and accountability reinforce the recommendations the Little Hoover Commission made in 2009."
He continued,
“Then and now, the Commission’s recommendations are aimed at improving CIRM’s ability to meet its goals for the good of all who can benefit from stem cell research, and to ensure that California taxpayers’ dollars are put to their most efficient use to that end.”
The California Stem Cell Report also asked the agency's first president, Zach Hall, for his thoughts. Here is the full text of what Hall, who was one of the peer reviewers on the IOM study, had to say,
“The IOM Committee and its staff have done an impressive job.  The report recognizes the scientific value and achievements of the CIRM and, at the same time, makes cogent recommendations that, if taken seriously, will further improve the quality and the public credibility of the Institute. The committee and staff deserve the thanks of the scientific community and all California citizens for their careful and thoughtful work.” 
John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., said,
“It's long past time to make the changes the report calls for, but given the spin the agency put on its response -- saying the report praises the 'agency as a bold innovation' -- shows it's business as usual. This sort of behavior will only ensure that CIRM doesn't get another round of public funding,” 
Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society of Berkeley, Ca., welcomed the recommendations. But she said,
“Given the agency’s shortcomings and the state’s budgetary problems, it would be wrong to ask Californians to give it more public money. If the agency acquires new funds from industry sources or venture firms, it must recognize that it has ongoing obligations to the people of California.” 
She continued,
 “CIRM has not responded in a meaningful way to many previous public interest suggestions or to independent reviews, including the one in 2009 by the state’s Little Hoover Commission. We hope the agency will not continue that pattern.” 
The California Stem Cell Report also queried most of the 10 patient advocates on the agency's governing board for comment. Their roles could be altered in a major way by the IOM recommendations. None of the advocates have yet responded.

(The full text or nearly full text of all the above comments is available here.)  

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