Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Stem Cell Researcher on $5 Billion Retooling of California's Stem Cell Agency: Learn from Experience, 'Do This Better'

California stem cell scientist Jeanne Loring has endorsed an insider's critique of a proposed refinancing plan for the state's stem cell agency, calling the analysis "logical" and coming "from the heart."

Loring's statement this week to the California Stem Cell Report addresses the 3,300-word evaluation by Jeff Sheehy, who has served on the agency board since its inception in 2004. 

In her comments, she endorses his analysis as logical and detailed. Among other things, she supports a reduction in the size of the agency's board from 29 to seven or 11 and stronger leadership of the panel. 

Loring is an award-winning scientist who has received more than $20 million in grants from the agency, officially known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). She is a co-founder and chief scientific officer of Aspen Neuroscience of San Diego, Ca., and professor emeritus at Scripps Research in La Jolla.

The California Stem Cell Report more than welcomes additional comment on this important subject, both pro and con. You may comment at the end of this item. Or send your commentary to It will be carried verbatim.

Here is the full text of Loring's comments: 

"I’m a stem cell researcher who has benefited greatly from California’s investment in human pluripotent stem cells. I’ve been attending the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee (ICOC) meetings since 2005; I’ve been to more than 50, which is more than many of the current ICOC members have attended. I am writing because my own observations support Jeff Sheehy’s insightful critique of the 2020 ballot measure. I know that it is likely that he will be criticized for raising his concerns, but there is no stronger supporter of CIRM’s regenerative medicine mission than Jeff Sheehy. With all due respect to the other 28 members of the ICOC, I’ve seen that Jeff has always been the best prepared for their meetings. 

"I urge the promoters of the new initiative to not confuse criticism with anti-CIRMism. Jeff’s assessment is logical, detailed, and comes from the heart; his goal is to de-politicize the agency and make it more accountable to the people of California.

"There is tremendous concern that the decisions of the ICOC, both on policy and in deciding what grant applications to fund, are politically and selfishly motivated. This concern is warranted, as manifest in some of the wasteful decisions the ICOC has made. This can be fixed. I would like to see stronger leadership of the ICOC, in the form of a fully committed chairman, and that the committee take its responsibilities more seriously. I agree with Jeff that the ICOC should have fewer members, 7 or 11 instead of 29 or more, so that no member can escape his or her responsibility.

"The ICOC is supposed to make judgements that assure that the funding provided by CIRM is consistent with CIRM’s mission for the people of California. Unfortunately, I have seen too many situations in which it is clear that the ICOC members too often defer to the grant reviewers, who are all from outside California, and have no stake in the outcome of their decisions. The ICOC has too often approved grants of tens of millions of dollars without spending any time investigating the applications and deciding whether the money will be used in the best interest of Californians.

"I fervently hope that Jeff’s specific suggestions about the ballot measure be considered by ICOC members, politicians, and voters. There is a chance now to learn from experience and do this better, and all that will take is to engage the critics who know what they are talking about.

"Anyone who has an untreatable condition should be aware of the practical value of regenerative medicine. We in California have an opportunity that the rest of the world can only wish for - to make lives fundamentally better for those who suffer now and will suffer in the future from diseases and injuries that only regenerative medicine can help."

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