Conflicts of interest at stem-cell agency yet again

Here we go again. In the decade since California voters established a one-of-a-kind state stem-cell research agency with $3 billion in bond funding, the agency has been in the news over and over because of conflicts of interests.

Members of the board governing the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine often are employed by institutions seeking board grants. While these members cant vote directly to give grants to their employers, the incentive for mutually beneficial voting is obvious. Thats why ethical complaints began almost as soon as the first grants were made.

Last year, finally, the institute added some strong new safeguards. Its key members then made the rounds at California newspapers to argue that it was time for the medias focus to shift to all the promising work that agency grants had yielded. Their argument seemed reasonable.

But this week, the U-T reported that recently resigned institute President Alan Trounson is joining the board of StemCells Inc. which got $19.4 million in grants from the agency.

Trounson hasnt broken any law, and agency officials are properly critical of his decision. But this still makes the stem-cell institute look shabby and the timing could hardly be worse. The original $3 billion in funding will be used up within three years.

Whether the institute seeks additional money from voters or the Legislature, its unsavory history will be hard to overcome.

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Conflicts of interest at stem-cell agency yet again

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