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Tangling Over $5.5 Billion Stem Cell Measure: CIRM Board
Member vs. Its Former Chairman


Robert Klein is on the left, Jeff Sheehy on right at CIRM
directors meeting. Art Torres, vice chair of the board is in
the middle. CSCR photo

The two men once worked together over the last 16 years to spend
$3 billion in state funds on stem cell research in California. This
week, however, they were very publicly on opposite sides of a
ballot initiative to spend $5.5 billion more.

The
initiative is Proposition 14,
 which would require the
state to borrow the additional billions. The measure would also

substantially expand the scope of the state stem cell agency
,
known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative
Medicine (CIRM)
.  

Both men, Robert Klein and Jeff Sheehy, served on
the CIRM board, regularly approving hundreds of millions of dollars
in research awards annually. Klein is a Palo Alto real
estate developer
and was the first chairman of the agency. He
directed the writing of Proposition 14 and now heads the campaign. 
He left his post as chairman in 2011.

Sheehy continues to serve on the CIRM board and has since 2004.
He is a patient
advocate member of the board
, its former Science Subcommittee
chair and a nationally recognized HIV/AIDs advocate. Sheehy was

the lone dissenting vote when the CIRM board endorsed

Proposition 14 in June, although he says the agency has done
“tremendous” work.

They came together “remotely” when they participated Oct. 5 in a
public radio show,
KQED‘s Forum with Michael Krasny
, that is
broadcast throughout California on public radio stations. 

Klein and Sheehy bristled at times during the 38-minute
broadcast. Klein said figures presented by Sheehy were “completely
false.” Sheehy said Klein’s financing mechanism in Proposition 14
was “very dodgy” and “ridiculous.” 

In the initial years of financing, Sheehy said, “It’s like
getting a credit card and then getting another credit card to carry
the interest (from the first credit card).”

Longstanding issues were also raised concerning conflicts of
interest on the CIRM board and other deficiencies identified in an

evaluation of CIRM by the prestigious Institute of Medicine
(IOM).
 The 2012 study was commissioned by CIRM itself at a
cost of $700,000. Both Klein and Sheehy supported funding the study
as a way to secure what they thought would be a gold standard
endorsement of the agency. 

Klein’s initiative does little to deal with the
issues raised by the study
, which said “inherent conflicts of
interest” exist on the board. The report also recommended that the
29-member board be overhauled completely and not expanded. 
Proposition 14 would increase the board size to 35, however,
increasing conflicts of interest. The measure also does not address
the management and governance problems cited by the study.

An analysis last month by the California Stem Cell Report
showed that
79 percent of the awards approved by the CIRM board went to
institutions that had links to board members
even though the
“institutional” members are not permitted to vote on awards to
their institutions. Conflicts of interest have been so pervasive at
times that only six or seven members were allowed to vote on
awards. 

Sheehy and Klein also talked briefly about state spending
priorities in the Covid year and the state’s ongoing affordable
housing, education and homeless problems. Overall, the KQED program
provided only a tiny peek at the issues involved in Proposition
14. 

Klein’s position can be fully explored on his campaign’s web site. Over the
last 12 months, Sheehy has aired his position at CIRM board
meetings and in submissions to the California Stem Cell Report.

Here is what Sheehy wrote regarding his no vote on endorsement of
the ballot measure.

A detailed look at the findings of the IOM report and the
current status of CIRM’s response is contained in the new book

“California’s Great Stem Cell Experiment: An Inside Look at a $3
Billion Search for Cures.”
  The book was written by the
publisher of this blog and grew out of more than 15 years of close
observation of the stem cell agency. 


Robert Klein is on the left, Jeff Sheehy on right at CIRM
directors meeting. Art Torres, vice chair of the board is in
the middle. CSCR photo

The two men once worked together over the last 16 years to spend
$3 billion in state funds on stem cell research in California. This
week, however, they were very publicly on opposite sides of a
ballot initiative to spend $5.5 billion more.

The
initiative is Proposition 14,
 which would require the
state to borrow the additional billions. The measure would also

substantially expand the scope of the state stem cell agency
,
known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative
Medicine (CIRM)
.  

Both men, Robert Klein and Jeff Sheehy, served on
the CIRM board, regularly approving hundreds of millions of dollars
in research awards annually. Klein is a Palo Alto real
estate developer
and was the first chairman of the agency. He
directed the writing of Proposition 14 and now heads the campaign. 
He left his post as chairman in 2011.

Sheehy continues to serve on the CIRM board and has since 2004.
He is a patient
advocate member of the board
, its former Science Subcommittee
chair and a nationally recognized HIV/AIDs advocate. Sheehy was

the lone dissenting vote when the CIRM board endorsed

Proposition 14 in June, although he says the agency has done
“tremendous” work.

They came together “remotely” when they participated Oct. 5 in a
public radio show,
KQED‘s Forum with Michael Krasny
, that is
broadcast throughout California on public radio stations. 

Klein and Sheehy bristled at times during the 38-minute
broadcast. Klein said figures presented by Sheehy were “completely
false.” Sheehy said Klein’s financing mechanism in Proposition 14
was “very dodgy” and “ridiculous.” 

In the initial years of financing, Sheehy said, “It’s like
getting a credit card and then getting another credit card to carry
the interest (from the first credit card).”

Longstanding issues were also raised concerning conflicts of
interest on the CIRM board and other deficiencies identified in an

evaluation of CIRM by the prestigious Institute of Medicine
(IOM).
 The 2012 study was commissioned by CIRM itself at a
cost of $700,000. Both Klein and Sheehy supported funding the study
as a way to secure what they thought would be a gold standard
endorsement of the agency. 

Klein’s initiative does little to deal with the
issues raised by the study
, which said “inherent conflicts of
interest” exist on the board. The report also recommended that the
29-member board be overhauled completely and not expanded. 
Proposition 14 would increase the board size to 35, however,
increasing conflicts of interest. The measure also does not address
the management and governance problems cited by the study.

An analysis last month by the California Stem Cell Report
showed that
79 percent of the awards approved by the CIRM board went to
institutions that had links to board members
even though the
“institutional” members are not permitted to vote on awards to
their institutions. Conflicts of interest have been so pervasive at
times that only six or seven members were allowed to vote on
awards. 

Sheehy and Klein also talked briefly about state spending
priorities in the Covid year and the state’s ongoing affordable
housing, education and homeless problems. Overall, the KQED program
provided only a tiny peek at the issues involved in Proposition
14. 

Klein’s position can be fully explored on his campaign’s web site. Over the
last 12 months, Sheehy has aired his position at CIRM board
meetings and in submissions to the California Stem Cell Report.

Here is what Sheehy wrote regarding his no vote on endorsement of
the ballot measure.

A detailed look at the findings of the IOM report and the
current status of CIRM’s response is contained in the new book

“California’s Great Stem Cell Experiment: An Inside Look at a $3
Billion Search for Cures.”
  The book was written by the
publisher of this blog and grew out of more than 15 years of close
observation of the stem cell agency. 

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