Tuesday, October 06, 2020

"California's Great Stem Cell Experiment: Inside a $3 Billion Search for Cures:" A New Book on the State's Stem Cell Agency

David Jensen
A new book devoted to the life and times of California's nearly 16-year-old stem cell research program is now available on Amazon. The book chronicles the stem cell agency's story from its early days to its current imperiled existence. 

The book is called "California's Great Stem Cell Experiment: Inside a $3 Billion Search for Cures." It was written by yours truly, David Jensen, who has covered the agency since January 2005 and who has published some 5,000 items about the program on this blog, the California Stem Cell Report.

The book explores the agency's performance as 20 million Californians vote this month and next to decide whether to provide $5.5 billion more for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is officially known. Questions addressed include: 

  • Has CIRM fulfilled the expectations raised by the 2004 campaign?
  • Has its work since then been worth $4 billion (CIRM's cost including interest on the state bonds that finance its work)?
  • What are the important elements and new directions created by Proposition 14 in addition to the $5.5 billion ($7.8 billion with interest), and does the measure fit with the state's current priorities? 

CIRM is unique in California's history, which has never seen an enterprise like this. It is also unique nationally. No other state has launched a scientific stem cell program of this magnitude.  And it is an agency that operates outside of the bounds of what many consider normal state government controls and finance. 

At the same time, even its opponent will acknowledge the significance of CIRM's work, which includes helping to finance 64 clinical trials and the creation of what it calls an Alpha Clinic Network throughout the state. 

In 2012, CIRM heard from the Institute of Medicine, which CIRM hired to conduct a $700,000 examination of the agency's work. The book re-examines the IOM findings, which were both laudatory and critical, and reviews CIRM's response.  

Along with critics, the book brings to readers the voices of CIRM supporters, its executives and former officials, including the first president of the agency, Zach Hall; its first chairman and leader of the 2020 campaign, Robert Klein; its current president, Maria Millan; its current chairman, Jonathan Thomas, and former president, Randy Mills, who introduced CIRM 2.0 and who is now president of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, Ca.

One also cannot forget the CIRM governing board director who early on who looked at the 2004 Proposition 71 governance structure for the agency and called it a "dog's breakfast." 

You can purchase "California's Great Stem Cell Experiment" by clicking on this sentence, which will take you to Amazon.  

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