Stem Cell Agency Rejects Grants, Cites Conflict of Interest
On Friday, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine rejected 10 applications for research grants because they included letters of recommendation that violated the agency's conflict-of-interest policies, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Voters approved the creation of the stem cell agency under Proposition 71, a 2004 ballot measure that authorized the sale of $3 billion in state bonds over 10 years for stem cell research.
The letters included in the rejected grant applications were written by university deans who also sit on the agency's oversight board, the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (Downing, Sacramento Bee, 12/8).
Although each grant application requires a letter of support from a dean or department chair, members of the oversight board are prohibited from using their jobs to influence the grant review process.
Ellen Rose, CIRM spokesperson, said the policy violations appear to have been innocent mistakes.
The agency would not identify which institutes' applications were rejected, but UC-San Diego appears to be one, considering that its dean writes all letters of recommendation for grant applications, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/8).
UCLA and USC have confirmed that their applications were among those rejected, according to the Bee (Sacramento Bee, 12/8).
The applications were vying for grants from the first round of a new $85 million program to pay salaries of stem cell researchers. The awards are scheduled to be approved on Wednesday by the oversight committee (California Healthline, 12/7).
Robert Klein, ICOC chair, said that the new system calls for:
- The rules for each round of grants to undergo two levels of legal review to avoid potential conflicts before grants are issued;
- Board members to receive guidance during each grant round to ensure that they understand the process; and
- Attorneys to answer any questions about compliance with the application process during each grant cycle.
Meanwhile, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is calling for the agency to publicly disclose the universities and stem cell board members involved in the incident (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/8).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.