The San Francisco Chronicle
Embattled stem cell board member Dr. John Reed said Tuesday that he will step aside until the state Fair Political Practices Commission completes an investigation of his effort this summer to reverse the rejection of a grant to the La Jolla research institute he heads.
Reed has acknowledged it was a mistake to send a letter to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine‘s (CIRM) chief scientific officer in August, seeking to reinstate a $638,000 grant. Board members are forbidden to discuss funding requests by their own institutions.
In a brief statement issued by the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, Reed said he would temporarily recuse himself from all activities of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, the governing board for California’s $3 billion publicly funded stem cell program, pending results of the probe.
“This will allow the board to continue with its important mission without distraction,” Reed said.
Stem cell agency staff withdrew approval of the highly rated project because the recipient, Dr. David Smotrich, was deemed not to be a full-time employee of the Burnham Institute. Reed disagreed with that assessment and conveyed his displeasure in a letter at the suggestion of Robert Klein, the chairman of the stem cell board. Klein has also acknowledged he erred in giving that advice.
The Fair Political Practices Commission is responsible for enforcing laws governing the stem cell agency, which was created by voter approval of Proposition 71 in 2004. It opened the investigation Monday in response to a complaint file by John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a Santa Monica consumer advocacy group.
State Controller John Chiang also asked for an investigation. He said he will conduct an audit of the stem cell agency because of the conflict-of-interest concerns raised by Reed’s letter.