Wednesday, May 15, 2019

California Stem Cell Crossroads: A Researcher Muses About the Golden State's Research Program

OAKLAND, Ca. -- A California stem cell researcher weighed in this morning on the future of the state's $3 billion stem cell agency, a topic that its leaders will delve into here today for two hours.

Paul Knoepfler, writing on his blog, said,

"We are at a crossroads for stem cell research in California as the original form of the California Stem Cell Agency (CIRM)winds down. Will CIRM get a new infusion of billions in state funding via a ballot initiative a la Proposition 71 from more than a decade ago? Will CIRM instead find a different source, probably much smaller, of research funding such as via philanthropy? Could CIRM cease to exist within a few years?"
Knoepfler is a longtime supporter of the agency. He wrote,
"CIRM has such strong clinical momentum right now, I hope it continues robustly for another 10 years."
The agency, however, expects to run out of cash for new awards late this year. It is pinning its hopes on a possible $5 billion ballot measure in November 2020. 

Knoepfler speculated about other sources of fund, including some from the legislature and possible private support. He wrote,

"While California has been very successful in getting NIH research funding for stem cell research by individual labs, the feds don’t fund state-wide efforts. The stem cell-related biotech industry in California is robust and should there be a few blockbuster successes from ongoing clinical trials here, which I expect will occur in the coming decade, this will likely draw in much more funding in that area."
Knoepfler also discussed the impact of "snake oil" stem cell clinics on the future of the agency. 
"In my view," Knoepfler said, "a newly funded CIRM is also going to have to deal directly with the unproven stem cell clinic problem in our state. With more than 100 such clinics here, Californians are at risk but so is stem cell research funding from these rogue efforts. The new bill on stem cell clinics could be the ticket, should it become law."
The California Stem Cell Report will be covering live this morning's hearing on the agency's and will file reports as warranted.

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