reforms. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine
longer faces the immediate prospect of a ballot initiative that
would address some of its most widely criticized policies. The initiative,
authored by state Sen. Deborah Ortiz (Dem.), would strengthen the
institute's conflicts of interest policies, ensure that any treatments
are available to low-income Californians, provide for returns to
the state, and more. But Ortiz placed it on hold after CIRM and
the Senate leadership negotiated a compromise, in which Robert Klein,
the controversial "stem cell czar" who chairs the CIRM's
governing board, assured the Senators that a set of "enhanced"
policies would be passed at the board's next meeting. A separate
bill, SB 18, would require strong informed consent from women who
provide eggs for research, prohibit the sale of eggs, and require
a performance audit of the CIRM. It has passed the Senate and is
in the Assembly.
of interest revealed. Unfortunately, the proposed compromise
policies remain inadequate. Most notably, they do not require that
members of CIRM's "working groups," which will recommend
grant awards and research standards, publicly disclose their personal
financial interests. The
Sacramento Bee has revealed that at least three members
of the working group that will review grant applications have financial
connections to companies that engage in stem cell research.
of Robert Klein. Criticism of Robert Klein has now emerged from
several members of the CIRM's governing board, the Independent Citizens'
Oversight Committee. At
a meeting of an ICOC subcommittee called to work out details
of the compromise policies, five members challenged Klein's bid
to extend his power by making himself chair of the subcommittee.
They also objected to Klein's proposal that the subcommittee rubber
stamp his proposals. Several of these same members also
raised questions at the July 12 meeting of the full ICOC regarding
a number of high-value contracts about which the ICOC had not been
An overview of the CIRM's administrative and financial problems
is in last
week's SF Weekly.
management. Meanwhile, the CIRM leadership seems to be working
to rein in public expectations raised by promises made during the
campaign last fall. Interim CIRM President Zach Hall recently cautioned
that "we need to make people aware of how difficult it is to
bring a new therapy to the market." And according
to the San Diego Union Tribune, CIRM leaders are also
backpedaling on campaign promises that the $3 billion in public
funding will be repaid from profitable developments: "That
money is unlikely to materialize, at least any time soon, according
to those now charged with the task of creating policy for the institute."
of the Standards Working Group. CIRM's Research
Standards Working Group met on July 6 and discussed the proposed
guidelines for embryonic stem cell research issued by the National
Academies. This was the first meeting of a CIRM working group and
was open to the public, due to the work of the Center for Genetics
and Society, Californians Aware, Charles Halpern, and other public