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Praise and Advice Given in Review of California’s Stem Cell
Research Program

The California stem cell agency today received both kudos and
advice from the small state panel that is charged by law with
reviewing its financial practices and is the only such state entity
with that unique task.

The panel is the Citizens Financial Accountability and
Oversight Committee (CFAOC),
which was created in 2004 as part
of the ballot initiative that also created the California
Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)
, as the agency is
officially known. 

While it reviews the financial affairs of the agency, the CFAOC
has no authority to require changes. CIRM’s programs will cost
state taxpayers an estimated $11.8 billion dollars before funds run
out in 10 to 15 years. 

Betty Yee
Controller photo

State Controller Betty Yee is by law the chair of the CFAOC.
It also has
four other members
, one of whom was sworn in just this morning.
Yee and the others were liberal in their praise of the agency’s
work. In addition to the usual financial information, Maria
Millan,
CEO of the agency, presented the CIRM programs
and their successes. 

Millan’s presentation was greeted with praise by all the CFAOC
members, including Yee. Towards the end of the meeting, Yee said
that she and other members would like to be kept up-to-date
regularly on CIRM matters since the CFAOC is required to meet only
once a year. 

Yee said, “Numbers have lots of stories behind them. I think
really to understand them fully, it is about exactly what we
learned today.”  She  said she hoped that part of the revision of
CIRM’s strategic plan next year will involve “how do we tell our
story better.”  Yee said she thought the agency was doing “great”
but there was so much to be told. 

Catherine Sarkisian
UCLA photo

The new member of the CFAOC is Catherine Sarkisian, a UCLA
physician 
who specializes in geriatric medicine, an area that
Proposition 14 identified as a new target for CIRM.

Sarkisian raised a question about the need for diversity among
recipients of  CIRM grants. CIRM officials pointed to existing
training programs for high school and college students. Sarkisian
said that those were important “pipelines” but that CIRM should
consider creation of “on-ramps” to build up diversity among
awardees. 

During the meeting, CIRM officials disclosed that the new
strategic plan is expected to be approved next summer by the
Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC), as the CIRM
governing board is known. Work on it is already underway.
Researchers and other members of the public can weigh in on what
they would like to see funded over the next five years by emailing
their comments to info@cirm.ca.gov.   

CIRM will be operating under a new, 17,000-word statute —
Proposition 14 — that
significantly expands the agency’s scope and increases the ICOC
size from 29 to 35. 

The new course of the agency is also likely to come up at a Dec.
21 meeting of the CIRM board. The public can address the board
online or email comments. The agenda is legally required to be
posted Dec. 11. It will contain instructions for online access to
the meeting. 

The California stem cell agency today received both kudos and
advice from the small state panel that is charged by law with
reviewing its financial practices and is the only such state entity
with that unique task.

The panel is the Citizens Financial Accountability and
Oversight Committee (CFAOC),
which was created in 2004 as part
of the ballot initiative that also created the California
Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)
, as the agency is
officially known. 

While it reviews the financial affairs of the agency, the CFAOC
has no authority to require changes. CIRM’s programs will cost
state taxpayers an estimated $11.8 billion dollars before funds run
out in 10 to 15 years. 

Betty Yee
Controller photo

State Controller Betty Yee is by law the chair of the CFAOC.
It also has
four other members
, one of whom was sworn in just this morning.
Yee and the others were liberal in their praise of the agency’s
work. In addition to the usual financial information, Maria
Millan,
CEO of the agency, presented the CIRM programs
and their successes. 

Millan’s presentation was greeted with praise by all the CFAOC
members, including Yee. Towards the end of the meeting, Yee said
that she and other members would like to be kept up-to-date
regularly on CIRM matters since the CFAOC is required to meet only
once a year. 

Yee said, “Numbers have lots of stories behind them. I think
really to understand them fully, it is about exactly what we
learned today.”  She  said she hoped that part of the revision of
CIRM’s strategic plan next year will involve “how do we tell our
story better.”  Yee said she thought the agency was doing “great”
but there was so much to be told. 

Catherine Sarkisian
UCLA photo

The new member of the CFAOC is Catherine Sarkisian, a UCLA
physician 
who specializes in geriatric medicine, an area that
Proposition 14 identified as a new target for CIRM.

Sarkisian raised a question about the need for diversity among
recipients of  CIRM grants. CIRM officials pointed to existing
training programs for high school and college students. Sarkisian
said that those were important “pipelines” but that CIRM should
consider creation of “on-ramps” to build up diversity among
awardees. 

During the meeting, CIRM officials disclosed that the new
strategic plan is expected to be approved next summer by the
Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC), as the CIRM
governing board is known. Work on it is already underway.
Researchers and other members of the public can weigh in on what
they would like to see funded over the next five years by emailing
their comments to info@cirm.ca.gov.   

CIRM will be operating under a new, 17,000-word statute —
Proposition 14 — that
significantly expands the agency’s scope and increases the ICOC
size from 29 to 35. 

The new course of the agency is also likely to come up at a Dec.
21 meeting of the CIRM board. The public can address the board
online or email comments. The agenda is legally required to be
posted Dec. 11. It will contain instructions for online access to
the meeting. 

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