OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s been more than a decade since California launched an unprecedented experiment in medical research by direct democracy, when voters created a $3 billion fund to kick-start the hunt for stem cell therapies.

The bold plan, a response to federal funding limits for embryonic stem cell research, was sold with a simple pitch: The money would rapidly yield cures for devastating human diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS.

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  • This article is seriously flawed in failing to report on why CIRM was proposed in the first place, let alone why it needed to support the building of new facilities. To place it in context, research on embryonic stem cells (ESCs) was hugely controversial during the second Bush administration, as creation of ESCs required the creation of embryos and subsequent harvesting of their stem cells. The administration promulgated regulations placing tight restrictions on research on embryonic stem cells, including barring research on ESCs from being conducted in any facility built in whole or part with federal support or using any equipment that had been acquired with federal support. Further, no federal funding was available for ESC research unless it used one of a limited number of ESC cell lines in existence when the regulations went into effect. These regulations were intended to, and did, sharply restrict research using ESCs in the academic facilities then in existence. CIRM was created to fund much broader research into ESCs than permitted under the federal regulations then in force. And, since the federal regulations restricted ESC research in facilities that had been supported by federal funding, to conduct research beyond that permitted under the federal rules, new labs were needed that were built without federal support. These labs may well have largely duplicated already-existing facilities, but were required to allow research to be conducted that otherwise could not legally have been conducted in the U.S.

  • I am a researcher and I am say: it took all of you the general media, as usual, too long to figure out that most of the money will be wasted to further the interest, reputation, and careers of basic scientists, most of them already academic, destitute, and in need of free labor in their labs or “education programs”, and some surprisingly having little stem cell backgrounds or no work to speak of. Yes, the research hasn’t caught on but money is being spent frivolously for seemingly, anything biotech as long as a small focus (some made up on the spot) for stem cells, for example – from Community College Biotech programs and CSU master programs, and the partnership of these programs with major university labs that do stem cell research, although some of these labs are not necessarily well established (maybe the incentive is that they were paid by the programs to house student interns, etc.). There is alot of investigation that needs to be done regarding the use and return of the money. So, in other words, another federal agency misusing tax payer dollars.

    If the objective is to further research trials, ESCs or iPSCs research certainly have not provided much, if any, practical efforts. If the objective of the money was to incentivize an industry niche to move forward, most researchers in california, even PhDs from leading institutions, are not well trained in the lab, let alone generate and deliver on novelty.

  • Plainly, it’$ ALL about the MONEY folks … the “movers & shakers” in the initiative are milking CA public and focused purely on MONEY not cures, sadly.

    Doubt it? then follow the money through objective forensic auditing…

  • In my experience, there is a strong bias in CIRM for long-term investment in IPSC, which are far away from market. Meanwhile, there are closer-term therapies, like bone marrow and hematopoietic stem cells that could provide therapies within 3-5 years. It will be much longer to wait for IPSCs. CIRM scientific review is run by acadmics, heavily invested in ‘mechanism of action’ and by general public, who have little grasp of the science. Thus there is a gap, and no strategy, for staging long-term vs. short-term therapies. Staging therapies into a pipeline to market could expedite access for short-term solutions while longer term therapies incubate. Until CIRM is able to grasp the time-to-market and develop a strategy around that, they will continue to fund basic science, at the expense of applied medicine.

  • I was surprised the author didn’t differentiate that the stem cell advances that have done well, shown the most promise and won Nobel prizes, have come from Adult stem cells and pluripotent stem cells. Not the embryonic stem cells. In 2003, scientists, celebs, and the media proclaimed the embryonic stem cells were the holy grail. Anyone who said otherwise (including the President or Catholic bishops) were ignorant, or obstructionists, or anti science, or simply didn’t understand the great intellect of the experts. Turns out the “experts”, with the media in tow, were looking in the wrong direction. They were insisting that the money go to embryonic stem cell research, and away from other ethical sources of stem cells. American scientists got it wrong, but they won’t say so. Imagine what admitting an error like that would do for their funding sources. In the meantime, the rest of the world got to work on adult stem cells, and pluripotent cells. Ethical sources of stem cells that were available the whole time. Thoughtful readers will have to educate themselves on the variety of stem cells sources and their associated cures, because neither the American science community, STAT, or the mainstream media will have this discussion.

    • Pluripotent stem cells include embryonic stem cells and iPSC. You seem to be distinguishing embryonic stem cells from pluripotent, but they are actually the same thing. Adult stem cells certainly have incredible clinical benefit and have even proved their value already for gvh disease. From an ethical point of view, embryonic cell sources are not the controversy that Tom Price and Mike Pence believe them to be. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Jeremiah 1:5. An embryonic stem cell are cells that have not ever been formed int he womb. They are extra embryos that have come from IVF treatment but are never implanted. A womb is never formed. These embryos were created to assist couples with fertility issues, and will never be implanted to create life. On the other hand, I can see controversy in fetal stem cells (a certain adult stem cell type) that are sourced from life.

  • I am a paraplegic. I know that the medical industry is a scam, just like education. I cant even trust my own mother to drive my Mercedes without ruining it, you really think we can trust 3 Billion dollars with people who say that they want to help cure diseases? Come on let’s get real that money was swindled before it even had a chance to get anywhere. Corruption everywhere, there will never be a cure for a lot of things. Not because we can’t, but because we won’t. Add the 3Billion dollars to the rest of the money wasted throughout the years. Greed is everywhere.

    • True unfortunately is true. People are constantly deceived and a lot of “dreamers” who want to come to the USA for a better life they find them self where they left off with the slight exception they able to send money back home to their families and loved ones. The criminal activity in the us is so big the government doesn’t have enough people to prevent and treat the problem. I am constantly come across situation where there is a fraudulent act and a deliberate fraud born out of it it not just grow and spread like a virus it had become a Neverending devils vicious circle. What appears to be to me is there is a massive amount of overhead of insufficient budget deficit in both sectors private and government sector and they are playing a catch up game and at the same time playing with people’s lives taking advantage of the most vulnerable because the next best thing after having a ton of money is the one thing money can’t buy:LIFE.

    • I’m very sorry to hear about your unfortunate illness, it must be devastating. The stem cell industry may be able to help spinal cord injury, but the treatment must come within a very short time following the injury.

      The link shows a man that was formerly paralyzed from the neck down following a stem cell derived treatment. If only the Bush era ban hadn’t paused the research, we could have been 8 years further in the trial and it might be available. I can only pray that we don’t make the same mistake again under this administration.

      Good luck.
      https://news.usc.edu/107047/experimental-stem-cell-therapy-helps-paralyzed-man-regains-use-of-arms-and-hands/.

  • My name is Tom Bechmann. I’m a veteran of the U.S. Army. I have 4 kids. I was diagnosed with SCA in Ft. Banning, Ga in 85-86. Since I’ve been staying active and lifting weights. In the last 5+ years it caught up to me. I’ve been following stem cells for the last 6 years! I see a neurologist at the VA but will not refer me to get stem cell therapy because it’s not FDA approved! I then turned my attention to the FDA but all I got back was stupid stuff why it’s not approved! It seems as though the FDA is getting paid by big pharma to extinguish the practice!
    I have been accepted by 2 clinics for stem cell therapy. I have 1,500 for this and that’s it! The fund raising was very unsuccessful. How much will It cost me! I’m broke! Can I get help?

    • Tom I’m so sorry the fda have no idea what they are doing I’m from Hungary and the food and drug administration doesn’t allow me to donate blood because in the 1980s we had a mad cow disease and that’s it. No further explanation nothing. But here are the facts: donated blood can be stored only for 6 months ; today we can donate:anti bodies plasma and stem cells . Fact#2.: Only 15% of earth’s population have negative blood type out of the 15% only 6.3 lives in the us I am one of them my blood type is so rare yet I’m being rejected but the truth behind the rejection is they still learning how else they can categorize into sub-category and up until now they had no way of storing an enormous database witch in a lot of cases is an outsourced job of an other mostly private company,when it’s comes to genetic database red tape is nearly as problematic as a very disorganized full of policy bureaucratic nightmare not counting human error into the tangled Web of the US healthcare. If you read news articles there are articles are out there detailing the negligence of government employees about class 3 bio hazard substance, and most Americans (tax payers) doesn’t know how the government hired a private company to develop vaccines for mass pandemics cost: 150 billion dollar. I don’t think this country priority is the individual because everyone everything is set up for improvisation.

    • creutzfeldt jakob disease has no diagnostic so the only way to combat the transmission is through patient history. The incredible good that your blood type can do is cancelled out by the higher probability of transmitting creutzfeldt jakob disease. Prions are awful, they can infect everything in the blood, can’t be disinfected and can’t really be detected. If given the choice between CJD and waiting longer for a blood transfusion, I would choose to wait longer.

      If only we had more people like you willing to donate blood. The millennial generation is turning out to be the worst generation for blood donation…

  • I’d not be too critical of CIRM or most other operatives in the stem cell field. Much stem cell reporting is frankly, little more than “gee whiz” level stuff, the issues faced are huge. Most fields of new medicine take decades longer than early proponents hoped. Look at gene therapy itself or even monoclonal antibodies – decades to move from the theory books to the Dr’s clinic.

    No-doubt now though, stem cells, particularly adult lineage are starting to make big impacts. aGVHD is but one example of what the near term potential is.

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