From its inception, California’s stem cell agency lacked credibility due to widespread conflicts of interest between board members and the organizations it funded in the realm of regenerative medicine. So we’re glad that a newly released report on the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has called for stronger protections in the areas of governance and transparency.
Created by California voters in a 2004 ballot measure in the hopes of kick-starting the development of genetic therapies for previously untreatable diseases, CIRM will wind up costing a substantial $6 billion in public funds. The new Institute of Medicine report was released just as the stem cell agency begins, in the years ahead, to wind down the allocation of public funds granted to it by the voters. Now the agency is looking to extend its operations—but it had better get its act together first.
Certainly CIRM has no business receiving any further public money, especially given the state’s budget deficit. But before it seeks new sources of funding from industry and venture-capital firms, CIRM should ensure that California’s $6 billion investment is respected with obligations met. It would be outrageous to have public funds wind up lining the pockets of private investors due to undisclosed conflicts of interest.
Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society sums it up perfectly: “CIRM has not responded in a meaningful way to many previous public interest suggestions or to independent reviews. We hope the agency will not continue that pattern.”