I recently obtained a list of the companies which filed letters of intent with the stem cell agency to apply for New Cell Line grants and Disease Planning Team grants. The agency says it regrets that I got it and published it.
I don’t. I’m also hearing that at least some companies are happy I did, too.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) leadership thinks names of applicants for public funds should be secret unless a grant is awarded. I think if you want public money you should ask publicly.
In an e-mail to the 18 on the list, CIRM President Allen Trounson said, "I am writing to assure you that CIRM understands the confidential and proprietary nature of certain materials supplied to it by applicants. We have issued a reminder about the need to maintain confidence and will continue to take all reasonable steps to assure the proper treatment of these materials."
From what I’ve heard, representatives of companies on the list are talking with each other about why it was only one of the 18 companies, Novocell, received an award. They’re comparing notes about the grant review process and how they feel it was biased against for-profit entities.
There’s a good chance they will work together as a group and take their concerns to the stem cell oversight committee, possibly as early as its September meeting.
See what happens when a little light shines in?
Here’s the full text of Trounson’s e-mail message to those on the list. As you might imagine, it didn’t come to me from CIRM:
From: Alan Trounson [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, August 22, 2008 3:16 PM
Subject: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine
I am writing to inform you that earlier today, John Simpson and David Jensen disclosed on their blogs the names of the for-profit companies that submitted LOIs to CIRM for the New Cell Line and Disease Team Planning awards. Your company was identified on the list, along with 17 others. Beyond company name, no other information was reported. None of the scientific or financial components of the LOI’s were disclosed. The blogs claim that the source of this information was a CIRM internal spread sheet. Mr. Simpson did not indicate who gave him this information, when he got it, or any restrictions that may have been placed on its use.
The identity of applicants for CIRM funds is confidential. We routinely deny requests to identify applicants. When information identifying applicants circulates within CIRM in connection with processing and evaluating applications, we remind recipients about the confidential nature of the material. In light of that, we regret that the applicant list ended up in the possession of, and was published by, these bloggers.
I am writing to assure you that CIRM understands the confidential and proprietary nature of certain materials supplied to it by applicants. We have issued a reminder about the need to maintain confidence and will continue to take all reasonable steps to assure the proper treatment of these materials.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call CIRM legal counsel, Nancy Koch at 415-396-9253, or Ian Sweedler, at 415-396-9122.
Alan O. Trounson, Ph.D.
210 King Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
So now I’m taking a poll and asking the 18 on the list: Are you better off now that it’s been released than you were before? You can respond by posting a comment below.