Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Watchdog Says Trounson-StemCells, Inc., Connection Casts 'Shadow' Over California Stem Cell Agency

The San Francisco Chronicle today carried a story on the appointment of Alan Trounson, former president of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, to the board of  StemCells, Inc., which has received $19.4 million from the research program.

Trounson’s appointment came only seven days after he left state employment. Last year, members of the firm's board received as much as $99,800 in cash and company stock, as reported by the California Stem Cell Report yesterday.

Chronicle reporter Stephanie Lee today wrote that the agency's funding was "pivotal" for StemCells, Inc. On Saturday, in an overview of the stem cell agency, she quoted Martin McGlynn, CEO of the publicly traded company, as saying,
 “We would not have been able undertake another program, and certainly one as challenging and as risky as Alzheimer’s, were it not for the fact that (the agency) was willing to provide funding for us.”
Lee also quoted John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., a longtime observer of the agency, on the matter. Simpson said that Trounson’s joining of the board “calls into question not only his ethics, but unfortunately casts a shadow over CIRM and its award process as well.”

Simpson continued,
“Whether it’s true or not, this has every appearance of being a payback for the money CIRM paid out to Irv Weissman (an eminent Stanford researcher and founder of StemCells, Inc.) and Stanford University. StemCells Inc. and Stanford have received more than $300 million from CIRM — more than any other researchers.”
Simpson said that Trounson should have waited two years before joining a company that had received funds from the stem cell agency.

Lee said that StemCells, Inc., filed a document with the federal Security and Exchange Commission that said said,
 “There was no arrangement or understanding between the Company and Dr. Trounson pursuant to which he was selected as a director of the Company.”
Lee said the Newark, Ca., company declined to comment. The California Stem Cell Report yesterday asked StemCells, Inc., Weissman and Trounson for comment as well as the stem cell agency.  Their remarks will be carried verbatim when they are received.

Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times also wrote a piece on the matter yesterday.

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