Controversial Stem Cell Institute Will Need More State Funding

With questionable accountability and therapy records, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will likely soon be coming back to California coffers for another bankroll.  One California lawmaker thinks the taxpayers should have a say in that.

John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) proposed that refunding CIRM, which sponsors research on embryonic and other stem cell research, be put before the voters next year.  The Senate Health Committee, however, disagreed and rejected his proposal this week.  (You can watch the hearing on The California Channel.)

CIRM was approved via a ballot proposition in 2004 and financed with $3 billion of state bonds.  It was sold as the way to bring stem cell therapies to the healing arts faster and, at first, was devoted exclusively to embryonic stem cells.  That has been expanded, however, to other types of stem cells when those were shown to be more likely to lead to successful therapies.

Catholic teaching strongly objects to the use of embryonic stems cells because they are obtained from aborted fetuses.  Other types of stem cells, depending on their origin, may be morally acceptable.

The Institute has also had to strengthen its accountability and grant award process.  In the early days, most of the Board of Directors, which approves grants, came from the very institutions that were recipients of the grants.

About 20 percent of the original $3 billion remains and talk is that the CIRM may ask for $5 billion more from the General Fund.  There are also reports that the Institute may move to private funding.

Watch for more CIRM funding debates over the next few months since the remaining funds are expected to be exhausted in 2018.

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