Sunday, November 16, 2014

California's Grand, $3 Billion Stem Cell Experiment: An Evaluation at Age 10

The $3 billion California stem cell agency turns 10 this month, an anniversary that naturally raises the question of what has it done for the first decade of its life.

Today The Sacramento Bee published an anniversary overview of the agency written by the publisher of this blog, David Jensen.  However, as is the nature of the print media, space was at a premium. So the article was limited in what it could cover. Newsprint costs money. Many stories and many topics are competing for space – not unlike the battle for state budget dollars or research funding.

In preparing the article, I asked for comments by email from a number of persons, including some directors of the agency and its executives, and its first president, Zach Hall, and promised to carry the full text of their comments on this Web site. I knew that most of what they had to say would wind up on the cutting room floor and not in the printed piece.  

But for those who follow the agency and its fortunes, what they have to say is important. It is also important for those who may want to tell the tale of California’s Great Stem Cell Experiment some 10, 20 or more years down the road. 

All those who responded to my inquiries were told that the article for The Bee was expected to address generally the questions of whether the agency’s efforts would be worth the $6 billion total cost, including interest, and whether it has fulfilled voter expectations from 2004, when the agency was created. They were also asked about their views on the agency’s achievements and shortcomings and advised to speak freely about any other issues as well.  I would like to thank them all for responding. Their comments contribute significantly to current and future evaluations of this important enterprise.

The agency responded to my request for fresh, pithy quotes from Chairman Jonathan Thomas and President Randy Mills, along with statistics many of which were submitted to The Bee for possible use in an infographic.  

With that said, separate items follow with their statements and more on the topic of the standing of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine at age 10.  (By the way, the traditional gift for a 10th anniversary is something tin. A romance novel writer working for Hallmark, Stacey Donovan, suggests as a gift “an old-fashioned metal lunch box to take to work.”)

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