$3 Billion Stem Cell Research

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Despite arguments by opponents of stem cell research stating unaccountability, ethical abuse via way of cloning of human embryos, and “corporate welfare� as reasons against stem cell research, California voters, in the recent election, overwhelmingly passed Proposition 71--The Stem Cell Research & Cures Initiative.
 The measure establishes the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, similar to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), to regulate stem cell research and provide funding, through grants and loans, for such research and research facilities.  The institute would be governed by a 29-member Independent Citizen Oversight Committee (ICOC).  In addition, it authorizes the state of California to sell $3 billion in general obligation bonds to provide funding for the institute’s activities.
The $3 billion is historical and highly significant as it clearly overshadows the mere and current $300 million federal spending; both for adult and embryonic stem cell research.  Indeed, the excitement and potential impact of the measure can be felt among various California scientists, medical researchers and health advocacy groups, including the California Medical Association. These groups point that the measure is really about curing diseases and saving lives. Stem cells are unique cells that have the ability to generate new cells, tissue and organs. Therefore, it could potentially provide treatments and cure for diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries and  HIV/AIDS, to name a few.
Arguably, there is also a great financial benefit for the state. According to a report by the Milken Institute, a non-profit independent research institute, California’s biotechnology industry serves as the leader for economic growth in the 21st century. Thus, the recent passage can be likened to a modern day Gold Rush. Indeed, out of state biotech/ medical research companies are already looking to partake in the festivities. For example, Advanced Cell Technology, Inc., a Massachussets based biotechnology firm, intricately involved in the emerging field of regenerative medicine, recently announced its move to California.  Several UC campuses, who stand as potential beneficiaries of the $3 billion, report that they are already recruiting the best minds around the country to California; as well as encouraging students to study in this field.
While the festivities are underway, it’s uncertain whether the ICOC members, who will be appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger, among others, can properly allocate, use and be accountable for the $3billion. Proponents and opponents alike hope, at the very least, the enacted measure will help reduce California’s health care spending costs; which is ranked as the nation’s highest with over $110 billion annually.

Ms. Oduok is The Black Star News's Health Editor. Comments and health-related information can be sent to [email protected]

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