Friday, December 07, 2012

Text of Comments Reacting to IOM Report on California Stem Cell Agency

Here is the full text or the essential elements of comments sought by the California Stem Cell Report on the Institute of Medicine report that recommended sweeping changes at the California stem cell agency. Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Genetics and Society put their comments in the form of news releases, which contained redundant material.

From Stuart Drown, executive director of California's Little Hoover Commission:
“CIRM initiated the Institute of Medicine review, which is to its credit.  The Institute of Medicine took a scrupulous and rigorous approach to its review of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and in its report, notes CIRM’s many achievements and accomplishments.

“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. The institute graciously acknowledged the commission’s work, which clearly is as relevant now as it was in 2009.

“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.”
From John M. Simpson, stem cell project director at Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca.(full press release here):
“Consumer Watchdog Thursday welcomed a report from the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) calling for sweeping reforms in governance at California’s stem cell agency and an end to the board’s built-in conflicts of interest. 
“The report said that 'far too many board members represent organizations' that receive funding or benefit from the stem cell agency. The IOM said that the board’s oversight function should be separated from the day-to-day management of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). 
“'The IOM's critical report echoes what every independent evaluator has said in the past,' said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Stem Cell Project director. 'As we have repeated from the beginning, CIRM suffers from built-in conflicts of interest and needs to separate the board's oversight function from day-to-day management.'
“'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,' Simpson said.”
From Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, Ca.(full press release here):
“The Center for Genetics and Society, a nonprofit policy research and advocacy organization, welcomed the report on the California stem cell agency released today by the Institute of Medicine and called for stronger protections for  the interests of Californians as the agency continues its disbursement of public funds.
“CIRM is nearing the end of the billions of dollars of public funding allocated to it in 2004. The agency is currently considering how to extend its operations after the money runs out. CGS Associate Executive Director Marcy Darnovskysaid, “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 2008 by the state’s Little Hoover Commission. We hope the agency will not continue that pattern.' 
“'Today’s report from the IOM reaffirms the significance of the conflicts of interest and structural flaws that were built into the stem cell program from the beginning, and that continue to threaten its credibility and effectiveness. These are serious problems that the Center for Genetics and Society and other public interest voices pointed out even before the agency was approved by the 2004 ballot measure on which backers spent some $35 million. 
“'Many aspects of these early concerns remain directly relevant,' Darnovsky said. 'There is still no way for elected officials to provide oversight because the measure that created CIRM requires a 70% vote by both houses – more than a supermajority. The agency’s governing board is still tainted by its built-in conflicts of interest, and still includes no representation of the public beyond disease advocates. Members of the agency’s powerful Working Groups, including the one that reviews grant applications, are still not required to publicly disclose their individual financial interests.'”

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