Not-for-Profit Organization Criticizes CIRM, Calls for Resignation of Chair
The Center for Genetics and Society, a not-for-profit organization that supports stem cell research, on Wednesday said that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has had a "very disappointing" first year and called for the resignation of CIRM Chair Robert Klein, the Sacramento Bee reports (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 1/19). CGS in a report issued CIRM a C-minus grade on the implementation of Proposition 71, which state voters approved in November 2004 to fund stem cell research.
The report criticized CIRM for inadequate governance and protections for women who might become egg donors for stem cell research (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/19). In addition, the report said that Klein misled voters about the tax-exempt status of Proposition 71 bonds and established a board with members who have a number of conflicts of interest. The report also said that CIRM, under the leadership of Klein, has failed to operate as "an accountable, responsible and transparent state agency."
Jesse Reynolds, CGS project director on biotechnology accountability and lead author of the report, said, "The pattern of leadership failures, notably including Mr. Klein's misleading of voters regarding financial returns during the campaign, lead us to conclude" that CIRM "needs a fresh start," adding, "It is time for him to step down as chair of the CIRM's board" (Sacramento Bee, 1/19).
CIRM spokesperson Nicole Pagano said that the report "rehashes old issues that they have already expressed to our board, which they have duly considered and addressed" (Lagos, San Francisco Examiner, 1/19). She added that CIRM "had a great first year" and has begun to develop policies discussed in the report (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 1/19). The CIRM board will consider the policies at a meeting on Feb. 10 (Sacramento Bee, 1/19).
A spokesperson for Klein said he plans to remain at CIRM (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/19).
The CGS report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.
In related news, Klein reportedly has raised $40 million in "bridge loans" to fund the institute while two lawsuits arguing the constitutionality of Proposition 71 go to trial next month, the San Francisco Examiner reports.
Klein is trying to raise $50 million in loans, which will be repaid if CIRM wins the lawsuits. Otherwise, the loans would become grants. Klein said the loans are necessary because appeals in the case could last until spring 2007, and funding approved under Proposition 71 would not be available until legal challenges are settled.
Banking magnates Herb and Marian Sandler have contributed $5 million through their charitable foundation, but Klein would not elaborate on other donors, the Examiner reports (Lagos, San Francisco Examiner, 1/18).
KCET's "Life & Times" on Thursday is scheduled to include an interview with Michael Freidman -- president and CEO of City of Hope and member of the Independent Citizen Oversight Committee, a 29-member panel created by Proposition 71 to oversee administration of the stem cell research funds -- about stem cell research in California ("Life & Times," KCET, 1/19). The complete transcript and audio of the program will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.