Stem Cell Agency Overseer Steps Aside During Probe
On Tuesday, a member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine's oversight committee will step away from his post while the state Fair Political Practices Commission investigates whether he violated the stem cell agency's conflict-of-interest policies, the Sacramento Bee reports (Downing, Sacramento Bee, 12/12).
In August, John Reed, CEO of the Burnham Institute, wrote a letter asking the stem cell agency's staff to reconsider its decision to deny a $638,000 grant to Burnham (Russel, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/12). The grant already had won approval from the board and an independent panel of scientists.
Due to his position, Reed did not participate in the initial review of Burnham's grant application. However, he asked Robert Klein, chair of CIRM's oversight committee, how to voice his concerns after the grant was denied in a subsequent review.
Klein recommended that Reed send a letter to the agency's scientific staff (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/11).
In his letter, Reed said he addressed himself as the leader of Burnham, not as a board member of the stem cell agency (California Healthline, 11/26).
On Monday, the state's Fair Political Practices Commission announced it would investigate a complaint filed by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights alleging that Reed violated the stem cell agency's conflict-of-interest policies. The foundation is calling for Reed's resignation.
State Controller John Chiang (D) also requested that the commission investigate the incident (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/12).
The commission can levy a fine if an involved party is found to have committed wrongdoing, but it lacks the authority to remove Reed from his board post (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/11).
Summaries of recent editorials regarding the stem cell agency appear below.
- Los Angeles Times: "Even as California's stem cell institute hands out a heartening new round of research grants this week, ethical lapses at the agency show that other items of business are seriously overdue," a Times editorial states. "The agency has entered the exciting phase of funding research that might one day lead to new treatments," the editorial states, adding that Klein "must welcome fundamental fixes and put a higher priority on running a public agency as truly public" (Los Angeles Times, 12/12).
Sacramento Bee: "Despite years of warnings about secrecy and insider dealings," the stem cell agency's "overseers continue to break their own rules and then refuse to provide information about the apparent violators," a Bee editorial states. "The consequences do not bode well for cutting-edge research," the editorial adds (Sacramento Bee, 12/11).
Related Broadcast Coverage
American Public Media's "Marketplace Morning Report" on Wednesday reported on a proposal for CIRM to issue loans to companies working on stem cell research that have yet to secure outside investments.
CIRM's oversight board will consider the proposal at its meeting Wednesday.
The segment includes comments from:
- Klein; and
- John Simpson of FTCR (Babin, "Marketplace Morning Report," American Public Media, 12/12).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online.