Tag Archives: stem cell research

Report From Institute of Medicine Calling For Sweeping Reforms at CA Stem Cell Agency Welcomed


Consumer Watchdog Thursday welcomed a report from the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) calling for sweeping reforms in governance at California’s stem cell agency and an end to the board’s built-in conflicts of interest.

The report said that “far too many board members represent organizations” that receive funding or benefit from the stem cell agency. The IOM said that the board’s oversight function should be separated from the day-to-day management of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

“The IOM’s critical report echoes what every independent evaluator has said in the past,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Stem Cell Project director. “As we have repeated from the beginning, CIRM suffers from built-in conflicts of interest and needs to separate the board’s oversight function from day-to-day management.”

“It’s long past time to make the changes the report calls for, but given the spin the agency put on its response — saying the report praises the ‘agency as a bold innovation’ — shows it’s business as usual. This sort of behavior will only ensure that CIRM doesn’t get another round of public funding,” Simpson said.

CIRM is expected to run out of money for new grants by 2017.  CIRM paid $700,000 to IOM for the report.

Click here to read the IOM release.

Click here to read CIRM’s release.

The IOM report said neither the chairman nor board members should be members of the agency’s working groups.  It recommended the working groups report to the agency’s president.

IOM said CIRM should expand its definition of a conflict of interest beyond financial conflicts including such things as the potential for personal conflicts of interesting arising from one’s own affliction with a disease of personal advocacy on behalf of that disease.

Friday Open Thread

Here’s a little something so you can head into the weekend informed.

• The SEIU put together a rally of over 1,000 members in Sacramento today, demanding a budget solution.  More are expected in Sacramento, San Francisco and Fresno tomorrow.  Given the desperation, I see nothing wrong with taking it to the streets.  You can also contribute to their letter-writing campaign to the Governor here.

• Here are a couple of real victories for organized labor and working people.  First, UNITE-Here’s workers won a court decision that will expand the Living Wage ordinance in Southern California and gives 550 laundry workers a better chance to sue Cintas for back wages.  Speaking of back pay, TV networks settled two class-action lawsuits with reality-show workers for $4 million dollars.  These workers were made to falsify time cards and work up to 20-hour days without overtime or meal breaks.  I have some friends in the industry who were parties to these lawsuits and I’m very happy they reached a good conclusion.  The fight continues.

• The Senate GOP is slow-walking the confirmation of Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary, which is annoying.  She is more than qualified and her views on the Employee Free Choice Act, which is a legislative fight, are hardly germane as well as well-known.  She deserves a vote and not this nonsense.  America needs a friend to labor at the Labor Department again.

• I have no idea why Rocky Delgadillo is running for Attorney General again.  Rocky has been a real hero in fighting insurance industry malfeasance like rescission, but his recent troubles over his wife running his city-owned SUV into a pole (and she didn’t have a license) and paying for it with city money is a 30-second ad waiting to happen.  Maybe he should wait out a cycle?

• The FDA has approved a Menlo Park-based company for a human trial for a stem cell treatment, the first ever in the US.  This is not just a victory for science but could prove to make California a real leader in medical therapeutics.  We need some expansion in industry here, anyway.

Good article from Open Left about how cleaner ports can add lots of middle-class green job, as it has with the Clean Trucks program at the port of Los Angeles.

• Shorter Phil Bronstein: Leave Bush ALOOOOOONE!

Separation of Church and State: Roman Catholic Style

(xposted from BluePalmSpringsBoyz’ blog on www.mydesert.com)

According to AMERICAblog.comand STLtoday.com, the online edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the regressive arm of the Roman Catholic Church in the form of the Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, has met his match.  Burke is the pompous member of the regressive Catholic hierarchy who determined in a self-gratuitous manner during the Presidential campaign in 2004 to withhold communion from Sen. John Kerry due to Kerry’s views on a woman’s right to choose and related issues.

Roll forward to the Presidential campaign of 2008, and we find that the men’s basketball coach of St. Louis University, Rick Majerus, supports Sen. Hillary Clinton in her Presidential bid, a woman’s right to choose, and stem cell research. Now, the sanctimonious Burke wants to deny to Majerus his freedom of speech and freedom of assembly under the U.S. Constitution, and the coach has had it.

More below the flip…

Majerus took a typically defiant stand in an interview published Thursday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“These beliefs are ingrained in me,” Majerus told the paper. “And my First Amendment right to free speech supersedes anything that the archbishop would order me to do. My dad fought on Okinawa in World War II. My uncle died in World War II. I had classmates die in Vietnam. And it was to preserve our way of life, so people like me could have an opinion.”

Burke indicated that it is not possible to be Catholic and hold positions in favor of a woman’s right to choose and in favor of stem cell research.  Funny, that, since many of the members of my family who are Catholic do support a woman’s right to choose as well as stem cell research.  Perhaps it is the regressive Catholic Church that does not belong to its members in this country.  And, lest we forget, during the Election 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy clearly stated that he would not be controlled by Rome.

Nevertheless, in the case of St. Louis University, in 2007, the academic institution won a legal case which affirmed that the regressive Catholic Church could not assert an oppressive control over the institution of higher learning.  In a 6-1 decision, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that St. Louis Universityis not controlled by a religious creed.”  Seems that Burke shot himself in the satin slipper on that one.  Humiliating ouch from the free society.

Majerus, born in Wisconsin, is one of the winningest coaches in the NCAA.  He was assistant coach under the fabled Coach Al Maguire at Marquette, another non-tax-paying Catholic institution of higher learning, from 1965-77 and under Coach Hank Reynolds from 1977-83.  Majerus then served as head coach at Marquette from 1983-86 with a 56-35 record.  He coached Ball State University from 1987-89 with a 43-17 record.  Majerus was head coach at the University of Utah from 1989-2004 but resigned due to heart problems.  He had lead the University of Utah men’s basketball team to the NCAA Final Four in 1994.

Burke, like Majerus, was born in Wisconsin, but is known as one of the most regressive Catholic leaders.  Prior to his appointment as Archbishop of the St. Louis, Burke was Bishop of La Crosse from 1994-2003.

Burke appears to be a media hound, insinuating himself into many controversies through the years.  According to Wikipedia, a few peers in La Crosse found him to be controversial and problematic.  Burke has also regularly made news regarding his purported opposition to the political actions of moderate Catholics who hold public office (seems that Burke fails to recognize separation of Church and State).  Furthermore, he initiated disputes with the St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in St. Louis.  In December 2005, Burke declared the parish’s board members excommunicated and announced his intention to repress the parish as part of the Roman Catholic Church. However, the church continues to this day as a not-for-profit corporation run by church parishioners.

Majerus became head coach at St. Louis University 27 April 2007.  According toWikipedia), Majerus is a fan favorite and somewhat quirky.  You just godda love that!  Seems that Burke has not gotten off on the right satin slipper with Majerus.

Burke has not only forgotten that there really is a separation of Church and State in the U.S.A., but also has forgotten that at colleges and universities across the country, NCAA men’s basketball is the deity.  Burke had better back up on that one.  Politicians may cower before the regressive Roman Catholic Church, but regarding men’s basketball, forgeddabouddit!

Thanks to Prop 71, UC Irvine Continues Stem Cell Research

This morning, I was looking through The Register. And suddenly, I had to stop in my tracks once I saw this:

UC Irvine has collected an additional $3.9 million for the study of human embryonic stem cells, raising its backing from the state to about $17.5 million and making the campus among the most heavily funded in the world in this nascent area of biomedical research.

Wow, so it looks like our decision to invest in stem cell research is starting to pay off! Thanks to Prop 71, UC Irvine can continue its groundbreaking research that may one day lead to real cures for nasty diseases. Follow me after the flip for more on what UCI will be doing with that additional $3.9 million…

So what exactly will this money be going to?

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine gave UCI the money to better equip a fast-growing research center and to train scientists to cultivate stem cells, which have the ability to become any cell in the body, making them potentially useful in treating disease and injury.

The money was part of the $50 million that the agency gave 17 institutions Tuesday for laboratories and training. To date, the state agency has given out more than $200 million, and will eventually distribute an unprecedented $3 billion, as called for in the voter-approved initiative Proposition 71.

And why is this important?

The university has been competing hard for the state funds, and raising millions from private donors, so that it doesn’t have to rely on federal money to run its core research center. The federal government limits funding to a small number of stem cell lines that were in existence as of Aug. 9, 2001.

The restrictions were imposed by President Bush, who says he doesn’t want to sanction the destruction of additional embryos so that the number of lines can be expanded. Congress is scheduled to vote this week on a bill that would ease the restrictions on federal funding, but Bush has said he would veto such a measure.

The $3.9 million Irvine got Tuesday promotes “a ‘fed-free’ zone where people are not only doing research but are trying to bring their results to clinical trials,” said Hans Keirstead, co-director of UCI’s Bill and Susan Gross Stem Cell Research Center.

Remember what George W. Bush told us back in August 2001? The federal government won’t fund embryonic stem cell research. And so long as the federal government won’t fund any research, such academic institutions as UCI (which receive plenty of federal funds) have difficulty engaging in such important and promising scientific research.

But now, UCI can continue its research, now that private donors and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine are chipping in. And what will UCI be doing with all this money? They will likely be building upon the progress that they have already been making. Take a look at what has been accomplished at UCI’s Stem Cell Research Center:

* James Fallon (Parkinson’s Disease): In 1997 and again in 2000, Fallon was the first to demonstrate how significant numbers of rodent adult stem cells and progenitors can be mobilized to help repair an injured brain. These results point the way toward potential new treatments that harness stem cells within the brain to reverse damage done by stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.

* Ken Cho and Ping Wang (Diabetes): Ken Cho, Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology, identified over 50 genes affecting the transformation of mouse embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells, perhaps pointing the way toward a means of expanding the supply of transplantable insulin-producing cells. Ping Wang, Associate Professor in the School of Medicine, has identified internal cellular processes that promote the growth and survival of cells affected by diabetes.

* Hans Keirstead and Aileen Anderson (Spinal Cord Injury): Hans Keirstead has injected hESCs into paralyzed rats and significantly increased their mobility, work expected to result in the first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells in 2006. Keirstead was also the first to develop a high-purity line of functional nerve tissue cell progenitors from hESCs. Anderson investigates the role of inflammation following spinal cord injury.

And in addition to all of this, there is so much more. There’s progress being made on treating Alzheimer’s. There’s greater understanding as to what happens with genetic diseases. There’s progress being made on fighting neurological disease. Basically, UCI is leading the way in finding treatments, discovering cures, and renewing a sense of hope with its scientific research!

Heck, their scientists are even becoming celebrities! ; )

No, but really, good things are happening at UCI. And thanks to California voters deciding that this type of scientific research is valuable and should be encouraged, UCI can continue this research. And hopefully one day, all this research will lead to valuable cures. : )

Legislative Scorecard

It’s hard to keep up with all that’s happening on the floors of the Senate and Assembly in this crucial week, but let’s bullet point a sampling what we know has been done so far:

* The State Senate passed SB 494, which mandates that 50 of all vehicles sold in the state run on alternative fuels by 2020.  This is similar to the bill that the CA Air Resources Board overturned several years ago, leading to the dumping of the EV1 project (ever see “Who Killed The Electric Car?”).  It was a party-line vote, with the exception of Mod Squadders Correa and Machado.

* SB 936 is a very important bill which would bring Workers’ compensation back in line with reality in cases of permanent disability. The bill “increases the number of weeks of indemnity payments for the range of percentages of permanent disability ratings.”  It passed 22-13.  Too many people are falling through the cracks of worker’s comp “deform.”  This is a good step.

* SB 1036 and SB 210 were also environmental bills that strengthen the good start made in AB 36 to tackle the problem of global warming.  SB 1036 provides additional funding for renewable energy, and SB 210 gives legislative heft to the Governor’s executive order reducing the carbon content in all transportation fuels sold.  SB 1036 was unanimous; Correa joined all Republicans in voting against SB 210.


* AB 48 and AB 514 outlaw the sale and use of toxic chemicals like diacetyl.  Both were party-line votes except for Democrat Nicole Parra voting against.

* Bills AB 527 and AB 292, promoting green building technology and solar energy, passed.

* AB 234, authorizing the use of have umbilical cord blood in stem cell research, passed unanimously and was brought to the floor by Republican freshman Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. (h/t Kalu))

* AB 1393 passed, Mark Leno’s “Public Records Act” that will make it easier to obtain government data electronically.

* Gil Cedillo’s “driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants” bill, which really isn’t that simple, passed through the Senate (SB 60)

* SB 63 from Carole Migden, requiring labeling on foods made from cloned animal products, passed.

* SB 943 would fund for a health center at San Quentin State Prison, paid through bonds.  Considering how broken the prison health care system is, this is probably a good step.  It passed easily.

Bigger bills on health care, clean money and more come up later in the week.

U.S. Senate Passes Stem Cell Legislation…Bush Promises To Veto

As debate opened in the Senate this week on a bill that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and reject the restrictions put in place by Bush’s 2001 executive order, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said:

“This bill eventually will become law. If not this year then next year. If not next year then the following year.”

If the Democrats (and a good amount of Republicans) had their way, of course, it would be law already. Back in January the House passed their version and today the U.S. Senate voted 63-34 in favor of expanding stem cell research funding (last year’s 63-37 vote for a similar bill prompted the first veto of Bush’s presidency.)

Unfortunately, the 2006 elections did not garner us a veto-proof majority in either house. But we’re getting closer. In the Senate, the Nays have been reduced by 3 since last year’s vote (Dodd, Landrieu and Johnson, all Ayes last year, did not vote this time.) And in the House, 2005’s 238-194 vote in favor of expanding funding shifted dramatically to this year’s 253-174.

Further evidence that the wind is at our backs on this issue came in the form of some good news for diabetes patients…

Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago released results of a study that shows great promise for stem cells in halting the progression of type 1 diabetes.

Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that the progression of Type 1 diabetes can be halted – and possibly reversed – by a stem-cell transplant that preserves the body’s diminishing ability to make insulin.


The experimental therapy eliminated the need for insulin injections for months or even years in 14 of 15 patients recently diagnosed with the disease. One subject, a 30-year-old male, hasn’t taken insulin since his stem-cell transplant more than three years ago.

These are the sorts of advancements we’ll see more and more of over the coming years, making opposition to federal funding of stem cell research a political liability.

Right here at home, Geron of Menlo Park, CA intends to begin human trials of an embryonic stem cell therapy for spinal cord injuries by the end of this year.

Stem Cell Crisis in California: John Garamendi and Michael J. Fox v. Tom McClintock

( – promoted by SFBrianCL)

At first I applauded yesterday’s announcement of Dem candidate for CA Lt. Guv John Garamendi’s Monday press conference with Stem Cell Initiative Founder and Bd Pres of the Calif Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Bob Klein and SF Mayor Gavin Newsom on the importance of stem cell research to the nation. (University of California, 600-16th – in front of Genentech Hall, St. San Francisco, 12:15pm. Be there.)

Like many of us, I’d been following the delicious way Rush Limbaugh turned Michael J. Fox’s recent ads on behalf of Dem candidates who favor medical research into a national news story.

Then I got to wondering how much – if anything – is known about the truly critical choice California faces in the Lt. Governor race. After all, most of us, even if we live in CA, don’t know much at all about the L.G.’s scope of work, let alone it’s relationship to stem cell research. And if we live anywhere else, we certainly can’t be expected to understand why this CA race should be of national concern.

More below the jump. I’ll unpack and shed some light.

In 2004, a great year for turnout, 59.1% of Californians voted for Prop. 71, which asked

Should the “California Institute for Regenerative Medicine” be established to regulate and fund stem cell research with the constitutional right to conduct such research and with an oversight committee?

Read the summary from Smart Voter.

Fast forward to 2006 and the Lt. Guv’s race, where California’s significant 2004 victory could be stalled – if not crippled – because of a back-door effort by the far right to elect Tom McClintock – a staunch foe of 71 – who promises to block stem cell research. And because the largest promise for that research, by far, lies in California, with McClintock in the Lt. Gov’s chair, all Americans will lose.

You can hear what this poster boy for neo-conservative public policy says about many of the real life issues we care about. Garamendi’s folks quote him on video.

Wearing the white hat we have John Garamendi. Enviro, articulate advocate of universal health insurance and staunch supporter of stem cell research on humanitarian, public health and economic grounds. Icing on the cake: he knows perhaps as much about the challenges and possibilities for election integrity as Debra Bowen

Happily, significant elements of the CA msm are coming out in favor of John Garamendi, and, thanks to Mr. Fox, there is more coverage of stem cell research as a political albeit non-partisan issue. How nuanced that coverage will be remains to be seen. A crowd at Monday’s press conference may help.

I don’t know when California last had a remarkable Lt. Gov, but read about the powers of the office and consider who you want making decisions about your health, your education, the air you breath, the water you drink. Think about what it will mean when the second highest Constitutional office in the state – with one of the largest economies in the world – is held by a man who is absolutely committed to convening the best minds to create a universal health plan for CA.  A man who has the political will to implement it. Consider what it means for all of us.

I asked Don Reed, Co-chair of Californians for Cures why I should care abut the out-come of this race, and got an earful:

Imagine if you really truly hated something–I mean genuinely despised it, so much so that you were publicly listed as first in the official opposition to it–and then were given POWER over it?

That is the situation California’s new stem cell program will face, if conservative Republican Tom McClintock becomes Lieutenant Governor.

McClintock’s opposition to Proposition 71, the California Stem Cells for Research and Cures Act is definitely not a secret. On the voter pamphlet his name is the first one listed among the enemies of the research program.  

“Official ballot arguments in opposition are signed by Tom McClintock, California State Senator’…”http://ca.lwv.org/…

So how does Mr. McClintock feel about Proposition 71? He calls it “a self-serving sham…perhaps the worst ballot measure that we’ve seen over the past decade…open season on  California taxpayers…” Reporter Marc Strasman of California Politics Today interviewed McClintock, and said he (McClintock) “compared the proponents of Proposition 71 to snake oil salesmen who come into town, take the people’s money, and leave them poorer… Private companies… would `make out like bandits’ while citizens will not even have the right to ask about what the research is buying.”

This evidences a flagrant disregard for the truth. I have attended virtually all of the 84 meetings, and the public is not only welcomed to attend but also invited to participate in every decision. To the best of my knowledge Mr. McClintock has not attended any of the meetings, so he may wish to claim ignorance.

His remarks reveal a contempt for the research, which I find troubling. “Snake oil”? I have personally held in my hand a laboratory rat which had been paralyzed, but which walked again after having been treated with embryonic stem cells.

As the father of a paralyzed son, I am eager for the research to move forward, and it frustrates me to see rampant ignorance getting in the way. The lawsuits already blocking full implementation of Proposition 71 are backed by opponents of the research very much like Mr. McClintock’s supporters among the religious right.

As Lieutenant Governor, McClintock would place up to five members on the oversight committee that runs the stem cell program.

What kind of people might he appoint? It is scary to consider.

As a Californian, McClintock, is staggeringly out of step with the state he wishes to lead. This is perhaps why he came in third in a recent gubernatorial election.

As a Senator, how has he done? Not many politicians can claim to have received F grades from groups as widely varied as Sierra Children’s Advocacy Institute, Congress of California Seniors, Planned Parenthood, American Association of University Women, Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality, California Labor Federation, California School Employees Association, Consumer Federation of California, the Alliance for Better Business — just to name a few. http://www.garamendi.org/…

Who supports McClintock? The Religious Right, for one. http://www.sfgate.com/…   If anyone thinks the Religious Right supports the  California stem cell program, they should please let me know, I would be glad.

He is spectacularly funded, more than $3 million for his campaign, (http://www.electiontrack.com/…) compared to rival John Garamendi, with (I think) under $1 mil.

Bottom line: this race is not in the bag and it matters. It quite directly matters for stem cell research, for environmental protection, for health policy and for leadership and investment in education.

The money trail is particularly daunting. As with the races for CD-11, CA-50 and CA-4, the Repugs are pouring resources into this race. As of the end of October, McClintock had $852k on hand compared to Garamendi’s $290k. I leave it to wonkier minds than mine to make sense of the contributors.

So what can we do? If we can get to San Francisco this Monday, we can show up at the press conference and demonstrate popular support for Bob Klein, John Garamendi and Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Before heading out to phone or canvass, we can do the drill: Get Informed, Get Involved, Contribute. We can show up and beat the drums and we can spread the word. Count this diary as part of spreading the word: worth doing if many people read it. So please, recommend, comment and do all you can do to keep California Blue. And sane.

California and stem cell research (xpost from dKos)

(The stem cell initiative has its flaws, but the far Right is holding this research hostage to its own moral agenda. – promoted by SFBrianCL)

**UTBriancl asked me to post this here as well.  Thanks Brian!**

The day after President Bush vetoed the federal stem cell bill, Governor Schwarzenegger authorized a loan of $150 million to California’s stem cell research funding agency, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

You might wonder why an agency that was authorized in 2004 via Proposition 71 to sell $3 billion worth of bonds (up to $350 million a year) is in need of a $150 million loan.

Unfortunately, CIRM hasn’t been able to sell any bonds, because their legality has been held up in court for a year and a half by lawsuits filed by a taxpayer’s group, People’s Advocate, and an anti-abortion group, the California Family Bioethics Council.  A new lawsuit filed in Sacramento a few weeks ago is attempting to thwart the agency’s grant funding to the University of California on the grounds that some of the CIRM grantees had ties to UC. 

However, even if those lawsuits are rejected, the money raised by CIRM will likely not be able to be as fruitful as it could have been.  Because of the federal bans, researchers will not be able to conduct stem cell research using equipment that was purchased with federal grants.  Existing laboratory space that is supported with federal dollars also can’t be used for stem cell research.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, “Robert Klein, chairman of the committee that is overseeing spending of the state funding, describes Bush’s decision as ‘tragic.’

“‘We could get greater leverage out of our $3 billion if we were able to use federally funded facilities currently in place,’ said Klein, who led the effort to pass a stem-cell funding initiative in 2004. “

Meanwhile, research with embryonic stem cells continues on various fronts.  An article that appeared in the June 29 issue of Nature identifies the potential promise of stem cell therapy for heart disease.  Researchers at the University of Washington are making progress in repairing damaged liver tissues using stem cells.  At Johns Hopkins, researchers have used stem cells to allow paralyzed mice to walk again.  Stem cell research at Stanford has identified the relationship of immune response to Alzheimer’s disease.  Nevertheless, Karl Rove told the Denver Post last week that researchers have found “far more promise from adult stem cells than from embryonic stem cells.” 

Progress will continue despite the veto, but it will make funding and conducting the research, even in California, significantly more difficult.