Investigate Grantee Before $2.6 million Payout, Consumer Advocates Say
Santa Monica, CA — California’s stem cell institute’s secretive awards process let a questionable $2.6 million grant to slip by the oversight committee without adequate scrutiny, the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today.
In a letter to Dr. Zach Hall, president and chief scientific officer, FTCR said the stem cell institute must investigate the CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute in Los Angeles and its corporate affiliates before paying out a $2.6 million grant to one of its researchers.
“It’s imperative that stem cell research funded by the state of California be conducted only by organizations demonstrating the highest ethical standards,” wrote John M. Simpson, FTCR stem cell project director. “Based on what is known so far, a thorough examination of the activities of CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute, its affiliates and leadership are in order before any funds are transferred.”
FTCR said the institute’s affiliation with corporate parents CHA Medical, CHA Biotech and other for-profit entities is unclear. Kwang-Yul Cha is chief executive of CHA Health Systems, chairman of the group’s Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center and director of CHA Regenerative Medicine Institute.
“Is CHA RMI truly a non-profit institution eligible for funding in this round of grants?” asked Simpson.
Also troubling are ethical questions raised recently about Kwang-Yul Cha, FTCR said. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, a spokesman for the California State Medical Board says Cha is violating the law by using MD after his name though he is not licensed to practice medicine in California. He is also embroiled in a plagiarism dispute in which he was listed as the primary author on a medical paper that appeared in December 2005 in the U.S. medical journal Fertility and Sterility. But, according to the Times, that paper appears to be nearly a paragraph-for-paragraph, chart-for-chart copy of a junior researcher’s doctoral thesis, which appeared in a Korean medical journal nearly two years earlier.
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center has also recently been implicated in “dumping” homeless patients on Skid Row in Los Angeles.
The stem cell oversight committee awarded $2.6 million to CHA Regenerative Medicine;s Dr. Jang-Won Lee as part of $74.6 million in comprehensive grants at its meeting in Los Angeles March 15-16. The grants were made on the basis of recommendations from a panel of scientific advisors and disease advocates, but the summaries did not identify the applicant or the institution.
“We’ve argued that the process should be open and the applicants identified as they do in Connecticut,” said Simpson. “The stem cell institute refused to let the sun shine in and they got burned as a result.”
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy group. For more information visit us on the web at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org