Friday, October 11, 2019

It's Official: $5.5 Billion Ballot Measure Filed for California Stem Cell Agency

Backers of the financially stressed California stem cell agency yesterday filed their proposed ballot measure to refinance the agency with $5.5 billion if voters approve it in November 2020.

The complex, 30-page initiative would also restructure a number of aspects of the agency and provide for financial assistance for patients and their families who might be involved in clinical trials. The proposal was submitted by Robert Klein, the Palo Alto real estate investment banker who led the ballot campaign that created the agency in 2004. 

Klein was also the first chairman of the agency, known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).  He is chairman of the stem cell advocacy group, Americans for Cures.

The $3 billion agency expects to run out of cash for new awards at the end of this month.

In addition to stem cell research, the proposed initiative would provide for awards for other "vital research" opportunities. 

Training for professionals would emphasized. The governing board of the agency would be increased from 29 to 35 persons. Representatives of the California state university system would have a greater official role in addition to representatives from the University of California. 

Additional changes are proposed in priorities along with alteration in conflict of interest rules and its public records provisions.

The measure, "Initiative No. 19-0022," will need 633,212 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The first step in the months long process is review of the measure by the attorney general's office, which will prepare the official summary.

The initiative said,
"Although California's stem cell research funding institute has made great gains, much work remains to be done. With new federal restrictions on important research, an anti-science agenda on the rise, and threats to reduce federal research and development funding, California once again must take the lead to ensure that this promising area of research continues and to advance projects from the research stage to the clinic. 
"Without additional funding, many of these promising research and development projects will be forced to stop work on potentially life-changing medical therapies. California's stem cell research institute needs additional funding to help bring promising discoveries through the development process, including clinical trials, with the goal of making treatments available to California patients with chronic diseases and injuries"
The public can file comments on the proposal at this page on the web site of the attorney general. 

(An earlier version of this article did not include the paragraphs beginning "Although California's..." and "Without additional...")

1 comment:

  1. My post to Paul Knoepfler's blog:
    I may have said this before…a few hundred times, but I’ll say it again: CIRM’s most important contribution was to establish an infrastructure, a critical mass of stem cell knowledge. Like all investments in new ideas, it was a risk; not all of the money was spent wisely. New technology is difficult to establish, and no matter how great an idea seems to be, research fails, therapies fail, companies fail.

    I see a parallel with the NIH’s human genome project that put billions of dollars between 1990 and 2003 into deciphering the human genome. There were many people who thought that was a bad investment at the time, with no obvious pay off in the short term. But the 13 years of investment in the human genome project created a critical mass of scientists who went on to use genomics to cure disease. The cancer therapies that are now saving so many lives could not have been imagined without the infrastructure built by the human genome project. The most powerful genome-based therapy, cancer immunotherapy, was approved by the FDA in 2017.

    In my own case, 13 years of CIRM’s investment in infrastructure worked. I built a thriving lab with CIRM funding, and when I decided to pursue a a stem cell-based therapy, my team’s work was so well established and respected that we obtained investment to start a biotech company to take the therapy to the clinic.

    This approach works. It just takes time. Right now is the time that it is beginning to pay off.


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