A Yes vote authorizes the state to sell $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds primarily for stem cell research and the development of new medical treatments in California. A No vote would mean the state's stem cell research agency will probably shut down by 2023.
In the ramp-up to the 2004 election, a California TV viewer may have come across the popular actor Michael J. Fox urging her to vote Yes on a state proposition. His voice slurred faintly by Parkinsons disease, he still sounded wry, boyish and familiar.
My most important role lately is as an advocate for patients and for finding new cures for diseases, said Fox, eyes level with the camera. Californias Stem Cell Research Initiative 71 will support research to find cures for diseases that affect millions of people, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Within that 30-second spot, Fox, diagnosed at age 29 with a neurodegenerative disorder that typically does not strike until after 60, used the word "cures" three times.
Proposition 71, which passed with 59% of the vote, authorized the sale of $3 billion in bonds to create an agency that funded stem cell research. The successful campaign grew out of a time, in the early 2000s, when the promise of stem cell and regenerative medicine excited both scientists and the public.
Whether the project has lived up to that promise is a matter of opinion. How voters view the record of the agency may go a long way in their decision whether or not to replenish the fund, which is fast running out of money, with an additional $5.5 billion, to be raised with new bonds authorized by Proposition 14, now on the ballot.
President Bush A Demon to Attack
Scientists since the1800s have known about stem cells, which are not yet dedicated to any particular anatomical function and have the potential to become nerve cells, blood cells, skin cells or any other type. They are found in blastocysts, which are human embryos four to five days after fertilization, and in a few areas, such as bone marrow and gonads, in adults.
In the late 1990s, researchers developed ways to steer the development of these cells, and the possibilities for improving medicine seemed endless. If malfunctioning cells were at the root of a particular disease, could new healthy cells tailored to the job fix what was wrong? Scientists and many members of the public were eager to find out.
Anti-abortion groups, however, a key constituency of President George W. Bush, opposed the research, and in 2001 he limited federal funding to a few existing lines of embryonic stem cells, severely curtailing research.
Some in the state of California wanted to get around Bushs restrictions, and Proposition 71 was born.
"(T)hey had this demon they could attack in the campaign the Bush administration," said David Jensen, author of "California's Great Stem Cell Experiment," who also writes the blog California Stem Cell Report. "They could say, 'This is a great opportunity, and the only way we're going to get it done is to do it here in California.'"
The measure created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The stem cell research agency is unique in the U.S.
"No other state has done this kind of level of funding and focus on this kind of thing, said Jensen. It's a really cutting-edge area of science."
A Few Successes
The pace of innovation has been slower than many hoped. As it turned out, grand discoveries were not around the corner, and to date there is no widespread stem cell treatment approved for the public. To date, CIRM has funded more than 64 trials directly and aided in 31 more. Not all have or will result in treatments.
But despite the lack of a marquee cure like one for Alzheimers or Parkinsons, the agency has seen some notable triumphs.
"Probably one of the most spectacular successes they have certainly so far," said Jensen, "is clinical trials that have saved the lives of what they say are 40 children."
Those children were born with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), commonly known as "bubble baby syndrome," a rare, generally fatal condition in which a child is born without a working immune system. An FDA-approved gene therapy that grew out of CIRM-funded research can now cure the disease by taking a patients own blood stem cells and modifying them to correct the SCID mutation. The altered cells generate new, healthy blood cells and repair the immune system.
The FDA has also approved two drugs for rare blood cancers that were developed with CIRM funds.
Sandra Dillon, a graphic designer in San Diego, credits one of the drugs with saving her life. She was diagnosed when she was just 28, in 2006. Her doctors told her they would try to manage her symptoms, but that she was going to get progressively sicker.
"Even just the idea of a cure or getting better wasn't even on the table back then," said Dillon, who is featured in ads for the Yes on 14 campaign.
"I remember just praying and begging into the universe, please, someone just look at my disease, please someone help, who is going to look at this thing.
By 2010, Dillon was extremely ill. She connected with a doctor at UC San Diego who received early-stage funding from CIRM and told her she could take part in clinical trials.
"For the first time, there was this moment of, 'Oh, my gosh! There are researchers doing something. And it could help me and I can get access to it.' It was amazing."
The drug received FDA approval in 2019, and today Dillons cancer has retreated to the point where she can live a normal life.
"I love that I am not tethered to a hospital anymore. I can go out on long backpacking trips and hiking and surfing," she said. "I am a completely different person with this drug. And I have a whole future ahead of me."
The original funding raised by Proposition 71 is running out. Proposition 14 would authorize the sale of a new bond to refill the agency piggy bank. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the UC Board of Regents, and scores of patient advocacy groups also support the measure.
Many newspaper editorial boards, however, oppose the proposition, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Mercury News and Los Angeles Times.
Right now the state still owes about $1 billion toward the debt created by Proposition 71. If Proposition 14 passes, the yearly price tag to pay off the new bond would be about $260 million per year for about 30 years.
One of the selling points of the original proposition was the potential for the state to earn big money in royalties from the treatments it helped develop, says Jeff Sheehy, an HIV patient advocate and the only CIRM board member to oppose Proposition 14.
"The promises were made that this would pay for itself. We would be able to pay back the bonds with the money we would get from royalties, etc., etc.
That has not worked out as envisioned: CIRM estimates it has received less than $500,000 in royalties. Early this year, Forty Seven, a company whose therapies were heavily funded by CIRM, sold to Gilead for $4.9 billion. While millions went to various researchers, neither CIRM nor the state of California received anything.
One of the flaws in the original measure is that we [the agency] cannot hold stock in the products that we develop," says Sheehy. "And that's because the California Constitution says that the state of California cannot, as a government entity, hold equity.
Proposition 14 makes it impossible for the state to use profits from its investment on, say, schools or other funding priorities. Instead, any royalties earned must be fed back into programs to make CIRM-funded treatments more affordable.
"What it does is it basically takes all of our returns that we get from this and gives it back to the pharmaceutical and biotech companies," said Sheehy. "It becomes just a blatant giveaway to these companies when we should be requiring access and requiring fair pricing."
Sheehy says he supports medical research, but doesn't like the state going into more debt to pay for it. The greater the state's obligations in bond money, which has to be paid back with interest, the less there is in the general fund, and Sheehy says the state has more pressing needs than stem cell research things like housing, education and transportation.
"The biggest and perhaps the most compelling reason why I feel so strongly that this is not a good idea is that we simply cannot afford it, he said. "If we think this is so important," asks Sheehy, "why don't we just don't pay for [this research] out of the general fund? It would be cheaper.
Opponents of Proposition 14 also point to longstanding complaints of conflicts of interest among the agency board. Most of the $3 billion distributed by the agency has gone to institutions with connections to board members. Critics say the structural conflicts of interest between the board and agency are not addressed in the new measure. Proposition 14 would balloon an already huge board of 29 members to 35.
Funding needs for stem cell research also are not as acute as they were back in 2004. The federal National Institutes of Health now funds some basic stem cell research, spending about $2 billion a year, with $321 million of that going toward human embryonic stem cell research. And private ventures, like nonprofits started by tech billionaires, are pouring more money into biotech.
The problem with assuming that, says Melissa King, executive director of Americans for Cures, the stem cell advocacy group behind the Yes on 14 campaign, is that CIRM fills a neglected funding need.
The NIH does not fund clinical trials at nearly the rate that CIRM can and has been, King said.
She says that's important because of what she calls the "Valley of Death," where promising early-stage research frequently fails to translate into promising treatments that can be tested in clinical-stage research. (What works well in a test tube often does not work well in an organism.) This weeding-out process is costly but necessary. And its where CIRM focused a lot of its effort.
The first- and maybe even second-phase clinical trials, its very difficult to get those funded, King said. It is too much of a risk for business to take on on its own. Venture [capital] isnt going there. Angel [funding] isnt going there.
What voters have to ask themselves, says writer Jensen, is whether stem cell funding is "a high priority for the state of California? Different people make different judgments about that."
CIRM supporters say if Prop. 14 doesn't pass, critical research will stall. Others say federal and private funding will step in and fill the gap.
Absent new funding, the institute expects it will wind down operations leading to a complete sundown in 2023.
- Doctor: COVID-19 cases will continue to slowly go down, but were not out of the woods - Yahoo Money - January 23rd, 2021
- Global Precision Medicine Market With COVID 19 Impact Analysis| Leading Players In-depth Analysis Research Report Foresight to 2027 - KSU | The... - January 23rd, 2021
- Leading Urologist Doubles Down on CaverStem Regenerative Stem Cell Procedure for Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction in Men - PRNewswire - January 22nd, 2021
- Sisters who organised an Ilkley fundraising ball are to be honoured - Wharfedale Observer - January 22nd, 2021
- Medical Doctor: Roes Overlooking of the Consensus of Societal Morality and Science Reverberates to This Day - National Catholic Register - January 22nd, 2021
- DARZALEX FASPRO (daratumumab and hyaluronidase-fihj) Becomes the First FDA-Approved Treatment for Patients with Newly Diagnosed Light Chain (AL)... - January 22nd, 2021
- Seattle researchers find clues for treatments that could eliminate HIV in infected patients - GeekWire - January 14th, 2021
- Flow Cytometry Market is Projected to Reach a Value of US$8100 Mn by the End of 2025 - KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper - January 14th, 2021
- Doctors diagnosed a Suffolk teen with a rare condition. Now, his mom is part of the solution - 13newsnow.com WVEC - January 12th, 2021
- Cassville club assists 2 families as they recover from illness - telegraphherald.com - January 12th, 2021
- The 26 billion-dollar startups to watch that are revolutionizing healthcare in 2021 - Business Insider - January 12th, 2021
- Global Precision Medicine Market 2020 Overview By Size, Share, Trends, Growth Factors and Leading Players With Detailed Analysis of Industry Structure... - January 12th, 2021
- More than 250 articles and a book later, the Valley Doctor bids adieu - San Lorenzo Valley Press-Banner - January 12th, 2021
- Groundbreaking Treatment for Severe COVID-19 Using Stem Cells It's Like Smart Bomb Technology in the Lung - SciTechDaily - January 5th, 2021
- New combo therapy offered against refractory T-cell lymphoma - Korea Biomedical Review - January 5th, 2021
- Hair Growth Treatment Secrets Bollywood Will Never Tell You About - Times of India - January 5th, 2021
- Are metabolic hormones the next frontier in cancer treatment? - MedCity News - January 5th, 2021
- Limerick toddler to wait six months for trial cancer treatment after family raises over 400,000 - Extra.ie - January 5th, 2021
- West Lothian mum fighting for her life after back pain turned out to be terminal blood cancer - Edinburgh Live - January 5th, 2021
- MorphoSys and Incyte Announce the Acceptance of the Swissmedic Marketing Authorization Application for Tafasitamab - Yahoo Finance UK - January 5th, 2021
- A Wish Come True urges plungers to dump a bucket of ice water on themselves for this year's fundraiser - Fall River Herald News - December 26th, 2020
- Ashley Cain says over 80,000 people registered for stem cell donation in 48 hours after appeal to save baby - The Sun - December 22nd, 2020
- The 11 most mind-blowing, awe-inspiring health discoveries and innovations of 2020 - Business Insider - Business Insider - December 22nd, 2020
- 3-year-old patient successfully treated for rare fatal disease- familial Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) at Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh -... - December 22nd, 2020
- Startups are racing to reproduce breast milk in the lab - MIT Technology Review - December 22nd, 2020
- Hand weakness: Causes, symptoms, treatment, and seeking help - Medical News Today - December 22nd, 2020
- Gujarat Issues Health Advisory On Fungal Infection With "50% Mortality Rate" - NDTV - December 22nd, 2020
- A side-by-side comparison of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines - STAT - December 22nd, 2020
- City of Hope Doctors Present Innovative Therapies to Better Treat Blood Cancers at American Society of Hematology Virtual Conference - Business Wire - December 9th, 2020
- Medical technologies that will disrupt (and improve) healthcare in the 2020s - Universe.byu.edu - December 9th, 2020
- Community Cord Blood Banking saves life of child with aplastic anaemia - The Hindu - November 20th, 2020
- Arya Lloyd: Father launches global search for blood stem cell donor to save his 12-year-old daughter - Sky News - November 20th, 2020
- Blood Cancer: Science Reveal Five Easily Missed Signs of Leukemia - Science Times - November 20th, 2020
- Karnataka:Community cord blood banking emerges as lifesaver - United News of India - November 18th, 2020
- How CAR-T Cell Therapy is Being Used in the Field of Blood Cancer Treatment - Curetoday.com - November 16th, 2020
- Election results for California Propositions 14, 18, 23, and 24 - FOX 11 Los Angeles - November 16th, 2020
- Cell Separation Beads Market to Witness Robust Expansion Throughout the Forecast Period 2018-2028 - The Daily Philadelphian - November 16th, 2020
- Fight for the rights of unborn - The Daily Telegram - November 11th, 2020
- Genetic Mechanism Identified in Neonatal Diabetes Could Offer Insights into Other Forms of the Disease - Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News - November 11th, 2020
- Doctors Debate: Is Intensive or Low-Intensity Chemotherapy Plus BCR-ABL TKI Therapy Best for Treatment of Ph+ ALL? - Targeted Oncology - November 11th, 2020
- Record number of stem cell donors apply after Ex On The Beach star plea - expressandstar.com - November 11th, 2020
- Bisbee: A commitment to health care initiatives The Journal Record - Journal Record - November 11th, 2020
- California election results: Where state propositions stand as of Thursday at 5 p.m. - Desert Sun - November 11th, 2020
- Critically ill Indonesian woman thanks Taiwan for saving life - Taiwan News - November 7th, 2020
- City of Hope Doctors Present New Research on Bone Marrow Transplants, Immunotherapy and Other Blood Cancer Treatments - Business Wire - November 7th, 2020
- Daily Edition for Wednesday, November 4, 2020 - California Healthline - November 7th, 2020
- 'We're truly blood brothers' - Stanford coach David Shaw and his recent fight to save his brother, Eric - ESPN - November 7th, 2020
- 'We're really blood brothers' - Stanford coach David Shaw and his current battle to save lots of his brother, Eric - The Shepherd of the Hills Gazette - November 7th, 2020
- Mark Drought: Are we on the brink of another civil war? - The Advocate - November 7th, 2020
- What to eat when you have the flu, recommended by doctors - Business Insider India - October 30th, 2020
- Fine-Tuning Treatments for COVID-19 - American Council on Science and Health - October 30th, 2020
- Aborted girl fetus kidneys made Trumps CoV meds. As SARS2 is unfettered in America, this needs thought - Feminine-Perspective Magazine (FPMag) - October 30th, 2020
- What to Know in Washington: Provisional Ballots May Play Role - Bloomberg Government - October 30th, 2020
- Unless the country invests in cancer care, the statistics for breast cancer will be bleak: Dr Anthony Pais, .. - ETHealthworld.com - October 23rd, 2020
- Autologous Fat Grafting Market Scope Analysis 2019 to 2029 - The Think Curiouser - October 23rd, 2020
- How Clinique La Prairie Is Keeping Humanity Fashionably Healthy In The Age Of Covid - Forbes - October 23rd, 2020
- The Anthony Nolan and NHS Stem Cell Registry - The Hippocratic Post - October 21st, 2020
- Jeff Bridges is one of the 85,000-plus lymphoma cases expected in the U.S. this year - MarketWatch - October 21st, 2020
- YOUR HEALTH: Saving an unborn baby breaking apart in the womb - WQAD.com - October 21st, 2020
- Orgenesis completes acquisition of Koligo Therapeutics and announces additional acquisition of Icellator(R) Technology from Tissue Genesis in related... - October 21st, 2020
- SA becomes 2nd country to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to donate bone marrow - News24 - October 21st, 2020
- Stem Cell Therapy Market to Witness Steady Expansion During 2025 KYT24 - KYT24 - October 21st, 2020
- Mohammed Hussain Alqahtani shares his insights about the evolution of plastic surgery - LA Progressive - October 21st, 2020
- Manya Saaraswat Makes Top 5 Finish in 2020 Miss World America Competition, Three Other Indian Americans in Top 10 - India West - October 21st, 2020
- Banking wisdom: Teen saving stem cells in hopes of future treatment - LubbockOnline.com - October 15th, 2020
- Mohammed Hussain Alqahtani Discusses the Future of Plastic Surgery - The Jerusalem Post - October 15th, 2020
- The story of how a biotech co. came to the aid of an ill 9-year-old boy - Stockhouse - October 15th, 2020
- Where Amy Coney Barrett Stands on IVF - Glamour - October 15th, 2020
- Regeneron, Trump, and the alleged hypocrisy of the pro-life movement - Christian Post - October 15th, 2020
- Life Sciences - a year to remember - Lexology - October 15th, 2020
- Woman who lost her partner to cancer last year set to run 10K in his memory - Warrington Guardian - October 8th, 2020
- Different Types of Childhood Cancer | INTEGRIS - Integris - October 3rd, 2020
- A perfect match: Bone marrow transplant saves twin brother's life. Now their family pays it forward - 11Alive.com WXIA - October 3rd, 2020
- Baby whose nosebleeds turned out to be deadly condition saved by stranger - Mirror Online - October 3rd, 2020
- Over 40 lakh people in Telangana have developed COVID-19 antibodies: Health Minister Eatala - The New Indian Express - October 3rd, 2020
- Coming of Age: New Research Efforts are Improving Treatment of Childhood Blood Cancers - Curetoday.com - September 23rd, 2020
- World Rose Day 2020: History and significance of the welfare of cancer patients - Hindustan Times - September 23rd, 2020
- Guide to Voting on Propositions and the City of San Bernardino's Measure S - Black Voice News - September 23rd, 2020
- Blood Cancer Awareness Month 2020 - Everyday Health - September 23rd, 2020
- CARLTON FLETCHER: McConnell is the poster boy for sleazy, partisan politics - The Albany Herald - September 23rd, 2020