Some Proposition 71 Funding Will Finance Construction of New Facilities
As much as $300 million in funding from Proposition 71, a measure approved on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that will fund stem cell research, will finance building, leasing and creating new laboratory space because NIH regulations require "strict separation between federally funded facilities and equipment and the studies of embryonic stem cells" that do not qualify for federal funding, the Sacramento Bee reports (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 11/14).
Proposition 71 calls for California to issue bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote stem cell research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center, as well as grants and loans for lab projects. State analysts say the measure will cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 11/12).
James Battey, chair of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force, said, "The critical thing is the federal funds have to be carefully parsed out so they are used only on (federally approved) stem cell lines." Battey said the regulations do not specifically require separate buildings.
However, federal grants often include funds for "indirect costs," which university administrators said usually finance building and maintaining campus facilities, the Bee reports.
Proposition 71 allows for spending up to 10% of the funds raised in the first five years to buy equipment and build, lease or create new labs in current structures. The state would have spent part of the Proposition 71 funding on lab space and equipment regardless of the federal restrictions because the initiative is expected to cause "rapid growth" in the number of scientists researching embryonic stem cells in California, according to the Bee.
The University of California-San Francisco Medical School -- which established an off-campus lab for privately funded embryonic stem cell research to ensure that it did not violate federal funding guidelines -- has conducted a feasibility study on building a $60 million to $70 million research facility on campus with Proposition 71 funds.
Larry Goldstein, a University of California-San Diego professor, said, "So many of the existing science labs are tied up with federal money that many of us think that -- in order to be squeaky clean -- you are going to need separate facilities" (Sacramento Bee, 11/14).
The "resounding victory" of California's passage of Proposition 71 could have the "unintended consequence[s]" of slowing stem cell research on the national level and creating a "backlash" from religious conservatives, the Washington Post reports.
The initiative already has caused some scientists in the biomedical industry to relocate to California and is causing renewed debate over the government's role in science, according to the Post.
Wendy Wright -- senior policy director of Concerned Women for America, which opposes embryonic stem cell research -- said California's investment in stem cell research "really takes the wind out of the argument there needs to be federal funding."
Some conservatives also have "expressed confidence" that they will be able to pass legislation to reduce federal funding for stem cell research by arguing that it is "unnecessary" to duplicate California's investment, especially during a time of growing deficits, according to the Post.
In addition, Wright said "moral values" were cited as important in this year's election and "that should give congressmen pause to look at the public policies they're backing and assess them against moral values."
The backlash also could come in the form of legislation, such as Sen. Sam Brownback's (R-Kan.) proposed ban on human cloning, which also would make it illegal for patients treated outside of the country with therapies from embryonic stem cells to return to the United States, according to the Post.
H. Rex Greene, a San Mateo physician who opposed Proposition 71, said the measure "will invite retaliatory action by people like Sen. Brownback who wanted to criminalize all types of research," adding, "That's what [Proposition 71 supporters] invited when they took such an extreme position" (Connolly, Washington Post, 11/14).
Two newspapers examined states' reactions to California's passage of Proposition 71, which might encourage some scientists and biotechnology companies to relocate to California, resulting in increased jobs, royalties, investment and tax revenue for the state. Summaries of the articles appear below.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) met with a group of scientists last month to brainstorm how the state could maintain its "importance" in the field of stem cell research in light of the passage of Proposition 71, the Journal Sentinel reports. Doyle would not give details on a plan he says will be announced in November, but he said he hopes to expand Wisconsin's position as a leader in the field, as well as to provide modern laboratories and increased scientific collaboration (Gallagher/Gores, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/13).
- South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Florida, which recently has "made bold biotech moves" and is trying to "jumpstart" its biotech industry, will face tough competition from California, which might "lure" research efforts to the West Coast, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Florida has committed $800 million to open a branch for The Scripps Research Institute, a California-based research organization that plans to open a branch in Palm Beach County, and the state Legislature has "beefed up" research grants throughout the state. Florida hopes that its "broader and less-risky" approach, in addition to other advantages in the state, will help "effort[s] to sink deep roots in bioscience," according to the Sun-Sentinel (Mertz, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/14).