Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Fecundity, Stem Cells and the Dark Side of Prop. 71

Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik has provided a bit of a filip to his look Monday at the California stem cell agency.

It came in the form of an entry in his blog entitled “Of stem cells and administrative arrogance.”

Among other things, he said Prop. 71, which created California's $3 billion research effort, was “too specific about how the program would be managed and how it would spend its money -- embryonic stem cell research was placed front and center at a time when that line of research was so, well, embryonic that no one could tell how fecund it might be.”

Hiltzik also said,
“Prop. 71 is an excellent illustration of how the state's initiative process can lead to doing the wrong thing with the right intentions. Now that many other research vectors are proving more interesting, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is at a crossroads, only five years after it was launched. Its latest major round of grants included some that had little to do with embryonic stem cells; it's moving away from basic science grants toward lending to commercial firms; its 10-year sunset deadline is fast approaching, with no one sure whether its lifespan should or can be extended; and real and potential conflicts of interest involving its board members and grant applicants continue to exist.”
“Now,” he said, “even Prop. 71 itself is in the program's way.”

A footnote on the sunset comment: The organization itself does not terminate after 10 years. Rather it loses its ability to issue state bonds.

(Editor's note posted Feb. 8, 2010: Section 3 of Prop. 71 states that the intent of the measure -- and "intent" is the key word -- is to
"Authorize an average of $295 million per year in bonds over a 10-year period to fund stem cell research and dedicated facilities for scientists at California’s universities and other advanced medical research facilities throughout the state."
(The outside attorney for the board says there is no legal time limit on the board's bonding abilities, just the total amount of the bonds, $3 billion. We will soon post an item discussing at more length the misperceptions about CIRM's life span.) Sphere: Related Content


  1. Anonymous10:07 AM

    Good. I'm glad it loses its ability to issue bonds after 10 years. In my opinion, Proposition 71 has gone on long enough; millions and millions of dollars going out the door at a time in California where every dollar counts is not a good thing. Let's hope we get rid of this spending altogether and put the dollars instead in something the federal government isn't also funding and by that help California get back to basics and a fiscally conservative model of government.

  2. "In a paper published online today in the journal Nature, they report that they were able to transform mouse skin cells directly into functioning nerve cells without needing to go through a stem cell stage first."