Monday, October 26, 2020

Proposition 14: The Latest News and Opinion, STAT to Capitol Weekly

The national biomedical news service STAT today took a look at California's $5.5 billion stem cell measure, declaring it was backed by a "well-financed campaign that’s making heady promises about curing diabetes, paralysis, cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases."

The headline on the story by Usha Lee McFarling said,
"With wildfires burning and Covid-19 spreading, can California afford stem cell research? Voters are set to decide"
McFarling's story was one of the more detailed that have appeared so far either nationally or within California.

She had this observation from a Los Angeles specialist on ballot initiatives, which is the direct democracy tool that Robert Klein, a Palo Alto real estate developer, used to place Proposition 14 on the ballot.
"John Matsusaka, an economist who heads the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. He said federal funding restrictions that fueled support of Proposition 71 are no longer a major concern, proponents have not done a great job demonstrating that voters got their money’s worth from the first $3 billion, and the measure is coming to voters during tough fiscal times." 
In 2004, Proposition 71, also created by Klein, established the state stem cell agency, known officially as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), and provided it with $3 billion. The money is nearly gone.  CIRM is set to begin closing its doors this winter unless Proposition 14 is approved. 

Mentioned or quoted in the STAT story were Alan Trounson, former CEO of CIRM, researchers Larry Goldstein of UC San Diego, Irv Weissman of Stanford, Jeanne Loring of Aspen Neurosciences, Inc., Andy McMahon of USC, and Jan Nolta of UC Davis. Others included CIRM governing board members Joe Panetta and Jeff Sheehy, and Melissa King, executive director of Americans for Cures and the head of field operations for the campaign group "Yes on 14." 

The STAT piece dealt with the range of pro and con arguments, including conflicts of interest. 
"'The people who decide who is going to get funded are the people who get funded. That’s a built-in conflict of interest they made no attempt to fix,' said John Simpson, who monitored CIRM for many years as stem cell project director for the group Consumer Watchdog. 'They need to go back to the drawing board and fix these structural flaws.'"

"Some of the conflicts have been so flagrant as to be almost comical. For example, former CIRM President Alan Trounson once asked prominent biochemist Leroy Hood to be a reviewer of a grant by Irv Weissman, the director of Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, after the three men spent time fly fishing together on a Montana ranch jointly owned by Weissman and Hood."
Also appearing today was an opinion piece on the Capitol Weekly online news service by Pete Shanks, who has written about CIRM for years on the blog, Biopolitical Times. 

He cited the much-discussed issues surrounding the stem cell agency and wrote 
"Proposition 14 could have addressed these defects. Instead, it made them worse: It enlarges the board to 35 members, still mostly drawn from representatives of the universities, companies, and research institutes that receive its grants."
Shanks also said, 
"The 2004 proposition campaign has been widely criticized for hype: over-promising the imminence and certainty of breakthroughs. The advocates called their operation 'Cures for California,' but these have been in short supply. They also said that stem cell research would enormously reduce California’s medical costs, but there’s no sign of that.

"The campaign for Proposition. 14 follows the same pattern. It claims that the new multibillion-dollar investment has 'massive savings potential' and a 'low impact' on the budget. Skepticism is definitely in order."


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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog