Stem cell agency needs to shed conflicts
California‘s stem cell agency understands the importance of attacking chronic problems. So if it wants to survive beyond 2014, it should heed the Institutes of Medicine‘s advice to eliminate conflicts of interest on its board — and do it before awarding the remaining $1.2 billion of the $3 billion voters approved for stem cell research.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine asked the prestigious Institutes of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, to evaluate its operations. One of the findings was that the vast majority of the agency’s 29 board members stand to benefit in various ways from their decisions on awarding research grants.
This has been suggested before, but the new report leaves no question of the ethical issue. To justify its continuation in some form, perhaps as a nonprofit or a foundation, the agency needs a majority of independent board members to make funding decisions.
The stem cell institute’s public funding window closes in 2014. It commissioned the review in part to help figure out how it might survive after that to sustain progress in stem cell research.
Even if there were no concerns about independence, another voter-approved bond would be out of the question.
Long-term funding was never the intent when Proposition 71 passed in 2004. It was supposed to kick-start research at a time when federal funding was blocked and to establish California as a major player in the rapidly advancing medical field.
- Stem cell agency is urged to restructure (sfgate.com)
- You: Stem cell agency board criticized for conflicts of interest (latimes.com)