Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

More Trouble in Proposition 71 Land: A Continuing Series


The potential for conflict of interest is always an issue when billions of dollars are on the line. But it is built into the system of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, tasked with distributing $300 million of borrowed money each year for cloning, embryonic, and now iPSC research. This was a consequence of permitting members of the Citizen Advisory Board to include representatives of the institutions seeking the pork.

The structural problem should have received high profile coverage from the media in the campaign to pass Proposition 71, and opponents tried to talk about it. But the media generally avoided the issue, obsessed instead with pointing out that many of those urging a no vote were pro-lifers. Indeed, it wasn't until after the election that several good stories came out disclosing the many structural problems with the CIRM--and then, of course, it was too late.

The latest story in this sad saga finds four grants in jeopardy because of conflict of interest problems, in which members of the advisory board wrote letters in support of their institutions' grant applications. From the story:
California's stem cell agency may toss out grant applications seeking millions of dollars for researchers at UCSF and other prestigious universities because they included letters of support from deans who also sit on the citizens' board that governs the $3 billion program.

Sources close to the grant-making process said that staffers at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine flagged the applications for conflict-of-interest violations, despite a requirement that each request contain a letter of support "signed by the Dean or Departmental Chair."

Among the institutions that have been notified their grant applications are in jeopardy, according to sources who spoke only on condition that they not be named, are UCSF, UCLA, the University of Southern California and UC San Diego.

In other words, to get a grant, an institutions needs a letter from the dean. But they named some of these same deans to the board creating a built-in conflict of interest. What kind of management does the CIRM have?

Proposition 71 was passed with more than $30 million in propaganda hyping the soon-to-be derived CURES! CURES! CURES! versus a few hundred thousand dollars from opponents. The media refused to play a proper watchdog role. Now, we have a big mess. And some of this comes out of my wallet since all Californians are being stuck for the bill for this debacle.


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