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Prop. 14 Asks Voters To OK $5.5 Billion In Bonds For Additional Stem Cell Research

 October 20, 2020 at 10:15 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 California has become a world leader in STEM cell research, partly due to more than a decade of generous public funding, but voters, this November will decide whether to continue that public support or cut it off more than $5 billion in bonds for STEM cell research hangs in the balance, depending on what voters decide on proposition 14 here to give us the pros and cons of prop 14 is KPBS science reporter Sheila Chet, Lonnie. Shelina welcome. Glad to be here. So no prop 14 would continue funding the California Institute for regenerative medicine, which does STEM cell research that began with $3 billion bond measure in 2004. And prop 14 would now add $5.5 billion in bonds. So what do people who support it say justifies that kind of money? Speaker 2: 00:45 So the people who support this measure say that the money goes towards making clinical trials and funding lifesaving research. So they say that, you know, any scientific research is good and should be funded. And that CIRM, um, for the California Institute for regenerative medicine has been able to give grants to researchers across the state of California to find life saving therapies. And so that work should continue. Another argument is that clinical trials take a long time. And so if opponents say that, you know, there's an issue with the number of clinical trials and how they've sort of ended or not ended, the reality researchers say is that clinical trials take, can take a really long time for therapies to manifest out of them. And so it's a good idea to fund, um, you know, another several years of money that can go towards, you know, finishing these clinical trials and having therapies come out of them. One of the people that supports more money going towards CIRM is Larry Goldstein, who is a neuroscientist at UC San Diego health. I'll mention that he's received quite a bit of money from CIRM, um, millions of dollars. And this is what he has to say about it Speaker 3: 02:02 With 60 clinical trials that we're supporting, but by CIRM and another 30, that CIRM has leveraged, it's actually accomplished quite a bit. Patients are, uh, going into remission based on very useful cancer drugs. Speaker 1: 02:18 What kind of diseases are being cured with STEM cell therapy? Speaker 2: 02:22 So STEM cell therapy, um, has gone toward helping people who are experiencing spinal cord injuries, type one, diabetes Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and osteoarthritis. So STEM cell therapy is obey of regenerating cells that have been damaged due to these various diseases. So it can really be life changing for some people who are experiencing these conditions. Speaker 1: 02:52 No, according to the Institute, it did reap some financial rewards for the state, for the public investment, right? Yeah. And this is where Speaker 2: 03:00 Prop 14 becomes definitely a sticky issue for some voters because there have been benefits, for example, 10.7 billion of gross output in sales revenue, around 600 million of state and local tax revenue, 50,000 jobs. So, you know, those are benefits, which by the way, come from the CIRM website, but on the other hand, it's less than what promoters of the original proposition predicted would come out of the measure. So this is from the LA times, this reporting that most supporters thought the program would pay for itself by generating at least 14 billion from a royalties and reduced health costs for California. But that hasn't exactly happened. Um, and that bar would be higher because instead of, you know, getting $3 billion in bonds, it would be $5.5 billion in bonds that taxpayers would have to pay off over the next three decades. And so, yeah, if you just look at the comparison, you know, we thought that we were going to get 14 billion from it, but there haven't been that many therapies that have come out of it with royalties that can go back from the States. So it's a bit of a sticky issue Speaker 1: 04:20 Now, where is opposition for this proposition coming from? Speaker 2: 04:24 One of the people that I interviewed, uh, Jeff Sheehy, he's actually on the board of serve. He's been on it since its very inception. And his point is that, you know, there, it was good that it happened. And there were a lot of benefits that came out of it and the work has been good and a lot of research has been funded, but what was predicted, it was going to come out of CIRM. Hasn't happened yet. And it's also a remarkably different time. You know, back then in 2004, under the Bush administration, there was a lot of pushback for STEM cell research due to religious reasons. And so there just, wasn't a lot of there wasn't really any funding for STEM cell research. Now that's changed. Um, you know, there's around $2 billion in federal funding for STEM cell research. And so his point is we shouldn't really take on this extra debt for something that hasn't amounted to our expectations. So that opinion, like I said, is coming from opponents like Jeff Sheehy, like I mentioned, he's been on the board of CIRM since its very inception. Speaker 4: 05:33 I'm proud of the work we've done. CIRM was never conceived as being permanently paid for with death. It was supposed to pay for itself and it has it. We need to bring this back under the control of the legislature and the governor and the state. Speaker 1: 05:47 So how much of this research money is coming to San Diego? I do remember that when the initial bond measure passed, there were some complaints that most of the money went to San Francisco. For example, uh, I wouldn't say that a lot Speaker 2: 05:58 Of the, uh, the money from the initiative is going fairly broadly across all of California. San Diego is, is tight for a lot of really fantastic science research that's going on. So it's only natural that a lot of the grants would be going to scientists here. Speaker 1: 06:15 We've been speaking with KPBS science reporter, Shalina Chet Lonnie Shalina. Thank you for filling us in. Speaker 2: 06:19 Thank you for having me.

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Supporters want the money to continue the science, but critics say the science didn’t do enough the first time.
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