October 7, 2022

More problems in governance of California’s stem cell institute

The chairman of the CIRM accused of supporting conflict of interest

California’s stem
cell institute, the best-funded in the world, has not had an easy
birth. Since taxpayers voted to create it with a US$3 billion bond
issue in 2004, a string of lawsuits, staff churn, and internal
wrangling has slowed its progress in promoting research. A fresh
embarrassment has now entangled its chairman, Robert Klein. The
Sacramento Bee has called for his resignation over allegations of
conflict of interest.

The latest kerfuffle
involves a scientist on the oversight board, John Reed, who urged the
institute to reverse a decision after it had denied a US$638,000
grant to a researcher associated with his institution. This was
clearly a violation of the institute’s conflict of interest rules. To
make matters worse, his lobbying was approved by Mr Klein, who is a
lawyer and should have been more sensitive to the issue. Klein, says
the Bee, should step down: ”
His divided loyalties, his disregard for public processes and his
imperious nature have driven off institute staff and created a bunker
mentality at what should be a world-class scientific institute.”

David
Jensen, editor of the California Stem Cell Report, broke the story in
his blog. He feels that the fallout from the incident will be
“considerable and long-lasting”. He says that “Klein has played
into the hands of the foes of human embryonic stem cell research, who
love to conjure up demons who fiddle with funding and abuse the
public trust. They now can simply point to Klein and Reed as proof.”
~ Sacramento
Bee, Nov 25
; California
Stem Cell Report, Nov 25