Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sacramento Bee and IOM: Restructuring Needed at California Stem Cell Agency

The Sacramento Bee today praised the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations for wide-ranging changes at the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

The newspaper's editorial and an earlier one in the San Francisco Chronicle come as the IOM formally presents its findings this morning to CIRM directors, some of whom would likely lose their seats if the recommendations are implemented.

The Bee said that for years “numerous outside critics” have recommended similar changes at the state agency to avoid conflicts of interest and possible misuse of public funds. The Bee wrote,
“Instead of listening, leaders of this institute(CIRM) – a poster child of how ballot initiatives can be manipulated to create quasi-public institutions with little public oversight – have been consumed by a siege mentality that has prevented any real introspection.”
The Bee noted that about 90 percent of the $1.7 billion handed out by the eight-year-old agency has gone to institutions connected to members of the 29-member governing board. One of the IOM recommendations would bar the board from voting on individual grant applications. Instead, the applications would be voted on as a block.

The Bee continued,
“It is to CIRM's credit that it solicited the Institute of Medicine report last year. Although some taxpayers may blanch at the report's $700,000 price tag, it will be worth the cost if it leads to a restructuring of how CIRM operates. 
“Of course, if it fails in that task, it will only affirm the view of many voters that they should never again endorse a California research initiative, especially one like Prop. 71 that lacks proper controls and accountability over taxpayer dollars.”

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