Wednesday, July 03, 2019

California Stem Cell Agency: 'Inarguable' Source of Hope, Says Article in Scientific American

The headline this morning on the Scientific American web site said:
"A Bulwark against Trump's Stem Cell Ban
"California's Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a kind of mini-NIH, does crucial basic research without federal funding"

Authored by Zachary Brown, a researcher at UC San Francisco, the article used as a peg the Trump administration restrictions on fetal research funding. Brown contrasted those restrictions to work being done here in California financed by the state stem cell agency. 

Brown recalled that a major impetus for voter creation of the agency in 2004 was presidential restrictions on federal backing for human embryonic stem cell research. Brown wrote,
"The future of embryonic stem cell research appears uncertain once again, as researchers are forced to scramble to adjust to arbitrarily changing norms uninformed by science."
Brown said,
"Almost 15 years have passed since Proposition 71 became law, and California voters made a three-billion-dollar bet on the promise of stem cell technology. At the time of its passage, the policy proposal was as groundbreaking as it was subversive."

Subversive because it challenged the "very relevance" of the predominant federal funding model. 

Brown continued,
"The measure was not perfect. Robert N. Klein II, one of the largest donors in support of Proposition 71, ended up as head of the governing body for seven years, and questions concerning bias in the disbursement of its ample endowment linger — curiously, more than 90 percent of awards" have gone to institutions with ties to governing board members.
"However, its role as a source of hope, both symbolic and realized, for the field of stem cell research is inarguable. The federal government weakens the image of the U.S. as a hub for discovery and medical ingenuity every time it prioritizes political gain over scientific progress."

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