Sunday, November 05, 2006

An Extraordinary Agency (CIRM), Now Two Years Old

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine – the state stem cell agency – marks its second anniversary this month.

The $6 billion agency was created when 59 percent of California voters approved Prop. 71 in 2004. A spokesman for CIRM said no special activities are planned for the birthday, which could be considered to be Nov. 2, the date of the 2004 election, or later in the month, when the results of the election were actually legally certified.

Without attempting a major overview of the agency's work, it is safe to say that it has made substantial progress towards its goal of turning stem cells into cures. It has improved its operations substantially from those difficult days of 2005. It has funded training programs to develop more stem cell scientists. And it is on the verge of making its first research grants and financing new laboratories.

The endeavor – believed to be the largest single source of embryonic stem cell funding in the world – has attracted international attention. A number of states in this country are attempting to emulate the effort in one way or another. CIRM also has gone beyond national ESC research standards and become the benchmark for ESC research standards in this country.

That said, life at CIRM is not all hunky dory. It faces considerable challenges, as readers of the California Stem Cell Report know. But the folks at CIRM are engaged in an enterprise that comes along only once in a lifetime. Although the details of the work at the agency are sometimes pedestrian, CIRM staffers are on the cutting edge of an unprecedented effort that ranges over new ground in science, medicine, religion, ethics, government, politics and business. They should take great pride in what they are attempting to do.

We wish the entire tiny band of CIRMies – all 20 or so -- a grand and happy birthday.

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