Over the course of its 16-year existence, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Oakland has helped transform its state into an innovation hub of stem cell science. But CIRM announced last year that its first $3 billion of funding has dried up, and now it’s up to voters to decide on November 3 whether to give the agency a second life.
The Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative, Proposition 14, would issue $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds for the agency to continue funding stem cell studies, training scientists, and building new research facilities, with the aim of developing and testing treatments for a range of diseases.
The measure isn’t facing significant organized opposition, but it has drawn criticism from newspaper editorial boards and others for what they see as conflicts of interest between CIRM board members and institutions applying for funds. Critics also question the state’s ability to afford the new funding amid a record wildfire season and a pandemic, and the necessity of CIRM given federal funding of stem cell research.
“I have a company now that would not have existed if I didn’t have CIRM funding, and I may be able to treat people with Parkinson’s disease” in the future, says Jeanne Loring, a stem cell biologist and professor emeritus at Scripps Research who last year launched the biotech company Aspen Neuroscience, which is developing a stem cell–based neuron replacement therapy for Parkinson’s. But she says she has concerns about