Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bee Readers' Commentary on CIRM Not Warm and Fuzzy

As of late Sunday afternoon, 25 readers of The Sacramento Bee had filed comments on the newspaper's Web site dealing with the California stem cell agency, ranging from violent opposition to mild disgust with the research effort.

The readers were reacting to two pieces on the front page of the Bee's Sunday Forum section dealing with the agency – one by yours truly and one by Larry Goldstein of UC San Diego. The number of comments was quite modest but provides some inkling of the public perception problem facing CIRM. One good sign for CIRM is that the number of comments was small. That can be interpreted to mean that the public doesn't know much about the agency or simply doesn't care, which is better than vehement opposition if CIRM is successful in placing another multibillion dollar bond measure on the ballot. Keep in mind when reading the comments below that those who hold the strongest opinions are the most likely to make public comments. Those in mild support of CIRM are not likely to make the effort.

Here is a sample of the comments:

From "John_Toradze:"
“I am a scientist, one of those rare ones who is also an entrepreneur. And, I'm sorry, but Dr Goldstein is simply not competent to discuss whether California is going to profit by its stem cell investments. Professors learn to spend money in a system that is disconnected from applications. They never learn how money is made in that system. In the grants world, money grows on trees, and it falls into the laps of people who "write good" and have buddies who like them. Peer review committees are notoriously incestuous (at best). Further, science is (and should be) disconnected from profit. Science is about finding out how things work.

“Here's the cold water reality. Currently, there are two clinical trials for stem cells. Neither one came out of the California bond issue. And both of these are simply safety tests. It will be years more before efficacy tests happen. Even if things go extremely well, medicine moves at a snail's pace. So even if both these trials were ours, California won't see money back for a decade.

“But the real kicker is that the California money is a tiny pittance compared to what NIH hands out each year. Simply put, in a Bayh-Dole environment, the relative size of investment makes California's investment into a play against the house at a casino. Science is about being smart, but more than that, it is about being lucky and stumbling across something. Odds are stacked against us.

“Last, as others have pointed out already, embryonic stem cells have problems.”
From “donghofamily:”
“Do we really have $300 million a year to divert from education and basic services of the state? While this is a noble effort, we as California taxpayers cannot afford to fund stem cell research for the world when we can't even meet the basic education and health care needs of our state's citizens. The idea that we would go further into the hole on this is laughable.”
From “Speede:”
“CIRM is one of the greatest scams ever foisted on the people of California.....Now, CIRM, with $2 billion in its coffers, is asking for more taxpayer dollars. It is time to end CIRM and its unquenchable thirst for taxpayer dollars. A history of 10 years with not one therapy to show for $1 billion in expenditures is enough. California taxpayers can't afford another con job designed to enrich a small coterie of insiders.”
From “pressto:”
“Proposition 71 has been a complete waste of $6 billion in taxpayer dollars. What we need is reform on ballot measures so that any spending measure that would be funding out of the general fund requires a 2/3 vote to pass because it has been ridiculous bond measures like Prop 71 that has been the real cause of driving up our deficit.”

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