Monday, October 12, 2020

Stem Cell Scientist Jeanne Loring on hESC Research, Proposition 14 and California Stem Cell Agency

(Editor's Note: The following commentary concerning the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and Proposition 14 was submitted to the California Stem Cell Report by Jeanne Loring, professor emeritus from the Scripps Research Institute and co-founder of Aspen Neuroscience, Inc., of San Diego.)

By Jeanne Loring

"Long ago, when Bob (Klein) and Jeff (Sheehy) were both CIRM’s oversight board members, their arguments were legend. I was at the meetings for most of them.

"After listening to the broadcast (KQED’s Forum), I want to make 3 points:

"I want to once more correct the idea that George Bush banned embryonic stem cell research; he did not, and I was disappointed that KQED perpetuated that misconception.

"In 2004 when Prop. 71 was on the ballot, I was already receiving funding from the NIH for human embryonic stem cell research. Bush’s decision was NOT to ban hESC research, but was in fact the opposite. He decreed that hESC research could receive NIH funding for the first time. In effect, he REVERSED A BAN. On the 9th of August 2001, a group of us who had already made hESC lines with private funding became eligible, for the first time, to receive NIH funding. Article: Stem cell research gets federal OK, Aug. 9, 2001.

"In 2004 when voters were approving Proposition 71, there were NIH grants funded for Jamie Thomson in Wisconsin, for Bresagen in Georgia, for several groups in other countries, and for Roger Pederson (UCSF) and me in California. Here’s an announcement from UCSF on September 17, 2002: UCSF begins distributing the first of its two embryonic stem cell lines.

"I supported Prop 71 not because it was necessary, but because it would make California an embryonic stem cell research juggernaut. I believed in the potential of embryonic stem cells and CIRM gave me the opportunity to prove it.

"Bob Klein and I used to talk often, and I admire him for his persistence in getting CIRM established. But as time passed, he seemed to tire of my opinions. Last year I published an opinion piece in Nature that pointed out the unanticipated parallel growth of legitimate stem cell research and charlatan “stem cell” clinics: World View Nature. I immediately received this message from Americans for Cures (Bob Klein’s organization).
'Dear Jeanne,

'On behalf of the organization, I must let you know the following. 
'Unfortunately, Americans for Cures must remove you from its Scientific Advisory Board, effective immediately. Your views in the recent article in Nature are not consistent with the views of Americans for Cures as to CIRM and the importance of CIRM’s accomplishments.'
""I have mixed feelings about Prop. 14. I have benefited greatly from CIRM funding, and after many years of CIRM funding, I was able to attract private venture funding to launch a company developing a cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

"'But I agree with Jeff Sheehy that the current measure does not fix the flaws in Prop 71. Having watched the process of approving grants by the oversight board (ICOC) for 13 years, I came to the conclusion that because the Board was made up largely of members representing institutions that were competing for grants, bias was unavoidable, and the large size of the Board, 29 members, was a detriment. The current proposition, Prop. 14, makes the situation worse by increasing the number of board members to 35 and not fixing the conflicts.

"There is a moment at which one’s trust in an organization is dashed. For me this it was this event: the president of CIRM was hosted by a professor at Stanford for at least 2 luxurious fishing trips in Montana and Alaska. This president then argued strongly in favor of large grants to Stanford, and also grants to a company that that same Stanford professor had founded. Finally, when the president stepped down from CIRM he waited less than a week before taking a paid position on the board of the company that he supported for CIRM funding. It was then that the full impact of the intrinsic bias became real to me."

(Editor's note: The reference to the president of CIRM is to its former president Alan Trounson. The reference to the Stanford University professor is to Irv Weissman.)


  1. Loring is incorrect in asserting that Bush was first to authorize federal stem cell guidelines. Clinton did in August of 2000:

    1. Hi Ben- did you have a grant for hESCs before 2001?


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