Thursday, November 14, 2019

Robust Defense of $5.5 Billion California Stem Cell Measure; State Hearing Scheduled for Tomorrow Morning

The man behind the $5.5 billion California stem cell initiative this afternoon vigorously defended the measure and released details of fresh changes in the proposal, which will be scrutinized tomorrow morning by the directors of the financially strapped state stem cell agency.

Robert Klein file photo by California Stem Cell Report
Despite the fact that agency faces its fiscal demise next year, the initiative is the only proposal around to continue the agency's funding. It ran afoul last week of questions from some of the agency's directors. One of those directors wrote a 3,300-word critique of the proposal by Robert Klein, the first chairman of the agency and who directed the writing of the 2004 ballot initiative that created the agency. A special meeting was called for tomorrow morning.

In addition to providing $5.5 billion in state bonds, Klein's proposal would significantly expand the reach and change the governance of what is formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine(CIRM). The measure would require the agency to launch a major effort to make "affordable" what are extremely expensive stem cell and genetic treatments. The proposal would also enlarge its governing board from 29 to 35. The board has been criticized sharply for the size of its board.

Klein said in an emailed statement that the changes he made in the wake of CIRM directors' concerns basically follow the outlines of what he released yesterday. He stoutly defended the agency's current work and his plans to expand its scope.

He said in an eight-page statement to the California Stem Cell Report.
"Patients and their families should not have to suffer more delays because of ill-conceived agendas that obviously do not fit into the new initiative, with a scope that has already been court validated."
Klein added,
"The federal government remains a threat to scientists and physicians investigating the best cell sources for developing therapies for patients. Just within the last nine months there have been new restrictions imposed by the federal government based upon ideological grounds."
Klein, a Palo Alto, Ca., real estate developer, is under a state deadline of 5 p.m. on Monday to make any changes. As sponsor of the 2020 initiative, he is the only person legally entitled to make changes. The measure then will go through a lengthy state elections process. More than 600,000 registered voters will have to sign petitions for the measure if it is to make it onto the November 2020 ballot.

Klein noted that the state deadline has passed for officially making public comments. But he said suggestions and comments can be sent to him through Saturday Nov. 16 at this address:  Any such comments are not a public record. If a reader would like to share his/her comments with the public, please send a copy of them to the California Stem Cell Report at djensen@californiastemcellreport. We will carry them verbatim.

The public can listen in and participate in tomorrow's meeting via the Internet or at telephonic locations throughout California. An updated list of those locations is here. Information on Internet access is on the meeting agenda.

Below is the text of the statement Klein sent this afternoon to the California Stem Cell Report. In it, he says the full text of the current version of the actual initiative is available on the Americans for Cures web site, a stem cell patient advocacy group that he founded and chairs.

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