Leaders of Stem Cell Institute Meet To Establish Conflict-of-Interest Rules, Set Deadlines for Site Selection
A subcommittee of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, the board created by Proposition 71 to establish the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, on Monday moved to limit conflicts of interest on ICOC by requiring members with existing ties to institutions whose employees are being recruited for president of CIRM to recuse themselves from voting, the San Francisco Examiner reports (Lagos, San Francisco Examiner, 1/25).
Ten of the 29 board members serve on biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies' boards of directors or have extensive financial interests in those industries. ICOC members recently disclosed all financial interests in such entities, as required by the ballot measure (California Healthline, 1/21).
ICOC member Sherry Lansing, chair of Paramount Pictures, said the board is aware of concerns about conflicts of interest, adding that "everybody is trying to set highest morality and transparency standards."
ICOC member Phil Pizzo, a Stanford University dean, said, "It's best to keep a very tight firewall around it."
The subcommittee also detailed requirements for the president of the institute. They said the president must have scientific expertise and experience in the management of large institutions and political operations.
The subcommittee said ICOC should try to name an acting president by March 1 because it could take up to one year to hire CIRM's permanent president (San Francisco Examiner, 1/25).
In related news, the site-selection subcommittee of ICOC met by teleconference Tuesday to establish a timetable and formal selection process for finding an appropriate locale.
San Francisco and San Diego are considered the frontrunners for the headquarters, although several other cities -- including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno and San Jose -- also are expected to submit proposals (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/26). Several California cities are expected to offer inexpensive or no-cost office space.
The subcommittee is looking for existing office space that requires little, if any, additional construction (Elias, AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/26). The space will need to house no more than 50 employees, include meeting rooms and be no more than a 45-minute drive from an international airport, according to a working draft of the requirements (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/26).
Formal requests for proposals will be issued in early February. Cities will have until Feb. 24 to submit their requests, and a final decision is expected to be made by ICOC, possibly at its April 7 meeting (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/26).
The "problem with Proposition 71 remains that the oversight committee lacks, well, oversight," a Santa Rosa Press Democrat editorial states. Citing a recent report on ICOC members' financial ties to biotech companies, the editorial states, "No one is suggesting that these directors come to the job with selfish intentions," but adds that ICOC members "would advance the credibility of the research efforts by divesting themselves of these private holdings."
The editorial concludes that if ICOC members "choose to do otherwise, they should not be surprised if the issue comes back to haunt them" (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 1/24).