Private Orgs Prop Up Stem Cell Research

A handful of private organizations have pledged $14 million in loans to the state’s new stem cell agency, providing an initial funding base to research that has been blocked by lawsuits.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, created by voters in 2004 through Proposition 71, has the responsibilty of doling out a total of $3 billion — $300 million a year — in stem cell research funding. The distribution of that money, however, has been blocked by lawsuits filed by taxpayer and bioethics groups. The groups say that the stem cell agency violates the state Constitution because legislators have inadequate control over the taxpayer dollars that fund research.

The Jacobs Family Trust and the Moores Foundation are two of the six private groups that agreed to the loans. Those groups continue a tradition of UCSD support, with UC Regent John Moores recently heading an effort to establish a stem-cell research group, between several La Jolla groups.

The consortium will include UCSD, the Burnham Institute, the Salk Institute and the Scripps Research Institute.

“I believe strongly that this consortium will, in time, lead to significant scientific advances and life-saving results in the form of new therapies and cures,” Chancellor Marye Anne Fox stated in a press release.

Now, with the possibility of real funding, similar stem cell groups across the state will be able to duck the court injunction.

“California will be America’s leader in stem cell research, which will not only benefit the tremendous need of people suffering from debilitating diseases and conditions, but will also help the California economy immeasurably,” philanthropist Eli Broad of the Broad Foundation stated in a press release.

UCSD is beginning a search to hire a vice chancellor of health sciences, a position that will be vacant since Edward Holmes announced his decision to resign earlier this month. Holmes served as a key negotiator in the consortium’s establishment and a CIRM board member.

Currently, the private loans have not been divided among the state’s stem cell research programs. It is unclear how much of the funding, if any, UCSD will receive.

Readers can contact Charles Nguyen at [email protected].