Tuesday, August 20, 2019

'Tough Lesson' and Stem Cells: More Time, More Money Urged -- Indirectly -- for California's Research

BioInformant graphic

Time and money, hope and hard work -- not to mention death -- were the topics today on the blog of the $3 billion California stem cell agency. 

The blog item involved more than the demise of patients waiting for a stem cell therapy but also the possible demise of the nearly 15-year-old program, unique in California history. 

The research effort, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), is running out of cash. By the end of this year, it expects to have no funds for new awards. 

That situation led to a piece this morning on CIRM's  blog, The Stem Cellar. It was a bit of indirect pitch for continued funding by California taxpayers.
"Time and money are always going to be challenging when it comes to advancing stem cell research and bringing treatments to patients. With greater knowledge and understanding of stem cells and how best to use them we can speed up the timeline. But without money none of that can happen."
The article by Kevin McCormack, senior director of communications for CIRM, recapped the history of the agency, created by voters in 2004 through a ballot initiative that set the state off on the largest scientific research effort of any state in the nation. Indeed, as McCormack pointed out, the funding surpassed research budgets of some nations. The catch in California was that no source of funding for the agency was provided beyond the initial $3 billion. 

CIRM noted the high hopes for quick therapies back in 2004. 
"In the early days there was a strong feeling that this was going to quite quickly produce new treatments and cures for diseases ranging from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to heart disease and stroke. Although we have made tremendous strides we are still not where we hoped we’d be. 
"It’s a tough lesson to learn, but an important one: good scientific research moves at its own pace and pays little heed to our hopes or desires. It takes time, often a long time, and money, usually a lot of money, to develop new treatments for deadly diseases and disorders."
McCormack briefly catalogued some of CIRM's progress and the 56 clinical trials in which it has invested, some of which are in the final stage before federal approval of a treatment. 

But CIRM said, 
"The simple truth is that unless we, as a nation, invest much more in scientific research, we are not going to be able to develop cures and new, more effective, treatments for a wide range of diseases." 
The agency is hoping that voters will approve a ballot initiative in November 2020 that will provide $5.5 billion more for stem cell research. In the meantime, it has $71 million to hand out.

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