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California Stem Cell Agency Exaggerated its Role in Funding Key Research

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2008
Last Updated: Thursday, April 17, 2008
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California's stem cell agency overstated and hyped the importance of its funding in enabling clinical trials for a drug to treat a severe blood disorder.

California's stem cell agency overstated and hyped the importance of its funding in enabling clinical trials for a drug to treat a severe blood disorder, Consumer Watchdog said today, seriously undercutting the agency's credibility and alienating those who support publicly funded stem cell research.

Last week the California Institute For Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) issued a news release titled "First Clinical Trial Begins for a Therapy Enabled By CIRM Funding." The announcement even drew a comment from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who issued a release saying CIRM funding led to the discovery. He added, "I am proud of our state's commitment to stem cell research, which delivers the best promise in finding treatments for deadly and debilitating diseases."

A report on this California Stem Cell Report published by David Jensen makes clear how little CIRM funding was actually involved in the research by a team led by UCSD's Catriona Jamieson.

"There is important scientific work here that led quickly to an important clinical trial," said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Stem Cell Project. "But the fact is that CIRM is jumping on the bandwagon claiming credit for contributions that were at best rather trivial."

The initial CIRM news release about the clinical trial said that Jamieson was funded by a stem cell SEED grant that was approved in February 2007. That grant was given to fund the derivation of cancer-causing stem cells from human embryonic stem cells. The research that led to the clinical trial did not involve human embryonic stem cells at all.

Moreover, according to the official notice of grant award, the time period for the CIRM funded grant of $613,305 was from Aug. 1, 2007- July 31, 2009. The university officially signed off on the grant on Aug. 31, 2007. The paper outlining the research findings was submitted to "Cancer Cell" on Sept. 19, 2007.

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