Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cost-saving Stem Cell Cuts Puzzle California Scientists

Jeanne Loring, the head of the Scripps stem cell program, reflected last week on the move by the $3 billion California stem cell agency to scuttle a program that she and other scientists believe is critical to the research effort.

Writing on, she discussed the effort to save the “shared” labs program at 17 institutions around the state. Continuation of the program was axed by directors last week in a cost-saving move. The agency is down to its last $600 million or so, and the governing board was feeling the pressure last week of having to deal with competing interests.

The board has 29 members, but only six in attendance could vote on the program because of the board's longstanding conflict-of-interest problems. Four approved the recommendation by CIRM staff and its Scientific Advisory Board to halt the lab program. That was all it took – the votes of four directors out of 29.

Loring and 11 other scientists attended last week's board meeting in an unsuccessful effort to the save the labs. She later wrote,
“We are back home now, but still puzzled about why CIRM would destroy one of its most successful programs.  The irony is that the board would like to continue to support training.  The training is done in the shared labs.  There are no more courses without the shared labs. 
“We aren’t giving up; we’re just taking some time to think.  Meanwhile, the positive side:  we did an amazing thing:  we are normally very competitive with each other, but on Wednesday we came together from all over California to support a single cause that is dear to our hearts.  That will remain a high point for me, even though I also feel a profound sense of loss.”

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