Monday, May 16, 2005

A Scathing Commentary on California's New Institute for Regenerative Medicine

The Los Angeles Times included a scathing commentary on California's new stem cell research agency. Author Michael Hitzik charged that "the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has behaved not like the state agency it is, but with the arrogance of a private corporation that happens to be playing with the taxpayers' cash." Hitzik charged that the agency has not yet developed ethical rules or financial disclosure requirements, but it has hired a private lobbying firm, "perhaps the only state agency that pays an outside lobbyist to battle the Legistlature." In addition, Hitzik alleged that the chairman of the agency, "Bay Area real estate developer Robert Klein II.... often seems to assume that anyone who criticizes himself of his agency must be fanatically hostile to embryonic stem cell research, or worse." Furthermore, in challenging lawsuits filed against the agency, Klein claimed that "over half of all California families ... have a member who might benefit from stem cell research." Since no one yet knows what the practical outcomes of stem cell research will be, this claim about how many people will benefit from it is obviously unsubstantiated, and thus is not the sort of claim that should be made by the head of a biomedical research organization. Finally, Hitzik claimed that the Institute "seems determined to start issuing grants within the next few months, possibly before it has in place an operational budget, a full sheaf of ethical standards and conflict-of-interest rules, or, indeed, bond money."
This appears not to be an auspicious start for the leadership of this Institute.

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