Thursday, January 23, 2020

Tiny Poll Heartens Backers of California's Financially Beleaguered Stem Cell Agency

The first public opinion poll of 2020 is out concerning the financial fate of California's $3 billion stem cell agency, and the result is "upbeat." 

However, there is one caveat that is as consequential as the failure of a phase 1 clinical trial. That is the go, no-go stage at which the safety of a stem cell therapy is tested in humans. 

The poll covers only 83 people out of the roughly 20 million California voters. 

The testing of public sentiment was conducted in the past week or so by UC Davis stem cell scientist Paul Knoepfler, who well knows the weakness of the non-scientific sample. But he still thinks it is something of a promising sign. 

Writing on his blog, The Niche, Knoepler reported that 48 percent of his self-selected respondents, who filled in the poll on the blog, believe that the agency will be refinanced with $5.5 billion from California voters come November. 

Sixty-three percent of those polled also said it should be.  

The agency is now down to its last $27 million, which is only a relative drop in the stem cell research bucket. 

Knoepfler described the poll results as "upbeat." He said that he thought that the 63 percent figure was an especially good sign for the agency, known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Knoepfler wrote, 
"I actually thought this one might swing the other way since we have many readers here on The Niche who run stem cell clinics or are fans of the clinics, and seem to have a dislike or skepticism for organizations such as CIRM, ISSCR (an international group of stem cell researchers), etc."
Backers of the agency are currently in the process of gathering more than 600,000 voter signatures to qualify the $5.5 billion ballot measure for the fall ballot. 

The results of that signature drive, which is being handled by professional signature-gathering firms, may not be known until June. 

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