Thursday, September 24, 2020

San Francisco Chronicle Says No to $5.5 Billion Stem Cell Measure, Proposition 14.

The San Francisco Chronicle today urged its readers to reject the state ballot measure, Proposition 14, that would stave off the demise of California's stem cell agency with a $5.5 billion infusion of cash. 

The Chronicle's headline on its editorial said, 

"No on Prop. 14; no need to replicate California’s disappointing stem cell experiment"

The editorial cited the Chronicle series in 2018 assessing the work of the agency. Written by Erin Allday,  the news story said,

 “Promised breakthroughs used to sell Proposition 71 in 2004 aren’t panning out, a Chronicle investigation found."

The Chronicle is the largest circulation newspaper to editorialize on the Proposition 14. The Chronicle says it has 173,514 daily circulation, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and 306,525 digital circulation. Readership figures for its editorials are not available. 

The impact of newspaper editorials in state ballot measure campaigns is debatable. In the heyday of the newspaper business, editorial page readership was in the neighborhood of 25 percent or less of total readers.  

Here are some excerpts from this week's editorial. (The editorial department operates separately from the news department, which produced the 2018 investigation.)

"Especially in a field as nascent as stem cells, science is slow, incremental and unpredictable, largely incompatible with the leaps forward touted in 2004. While the unique state of the science and politics drew broad support for Prop. 71 — including The Chronicle’s — we shouldn’t make a habit of setting science policy and budgets by state plebiscite."

"While state funds helped support the research that led to two approved cancer drugs and a host of prospective therapies in various stages of development, far-reaching breakthroughs attributed to the stem cell agency have been scarce so far, as a Chronicle investigation found. More than half the original funding went to buildings and other infrastructure, education and training, and the sort of basic research that, while scientifically valuable, is a long way from medical application. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is at odds with the vision of dramatic advancements put to voters."

"While both initiatives provide for recovering income from approved therapies, the fiscal benefits are a matter of speculation. And with the pandemic, wildfires and more stretching the state’s resources, stem cell research looks like an even more unlikely gamble for a government with more pressing priorities."


Read all about California's stem cell agency, including Proposition 14,  in David Jensen's new book. Buy it on Amazon:  California's Great Stem Cell Experiment: Inside a $3 Billion Search for Stem Cell Cures. Click here for more information on the author. 

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