Some See Benefits for State Following Approval of Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research
Experts expect California's approval of Proposition 71 to cause a "21st century gold rush," including a large movement of scientists to the state from around the world, Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal reports (Hovey, Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, 11/10).
Under Proposition 71, the state will 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 laboratory projects. State analysts say the measure will cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 11/8).
Harvey Lodish, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and researcher at MIT's Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, said, "My sense is that a lot of people are going to move to California -- a lot of students and postdocs," adding, "There are a lot of the future leaders who would find that quite attractive."
Eve Herold, spokesperson for the Stem Cell Research Foundation in Maryland, said, "Obviously scientists are going to go where the money is" (Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, 11/10).
Robert Lanza -- research chief of Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology, which plans to open a laboratory in California -- said the initiative could "serve as a wake-up call for the rest of the country," adding that the research environment in California is "very favorable" (Elias, AP/San Louis Obispo Tribune, 11/9).
Other new companies are expected to "emerge and grow" in California to "take advantage of the state's expanding financial and intellectual capital," according to the Sacramento Bee.
"From a competitive standpoint, biotech companies that have a presence here ... would be at a distinct advantage to those who don't," according to Ross DeVol, director of regional economics at the Milken Institute (Lee, Sacramento Bee, 11/9).
However, investors likely will not "cash in" immediately on Proposition 71 in part because large pharmaceutical firms to date have not invested substantially in stem cell research due to the "controversy and the unknown benefit" the research could yield, Dow Jones/Journal reports (Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, 11/10).
Baltimore Sun: California voters' decision last week to create "their own public agency" to fund stem cell research represents "a giant -- and necessary -- break with the nation's 117-year-old tradition of relying on the NIH to fund most biological research," a Sun editorial states. Stem cell research "has all but stalled in the United States" in part because the stem cell lines currently eligible for funding by the Bush administration are "wearing out," but the passage of Proposition 71 "tips the funding scale from famine to feast," according to the Sun. Although the measure has financial risks for the state, the editorial board states that observers "cannot question the overriding public interest in discovering just how promising this medical technology can be" (Baltimore Sun, 11/9).
- Peter Canellos, Boston Globe: If research funded by Proposition 71 yields scientific advances, President Bush "will come under increasing pressure to lift his federal restrictions" on funding for stem cell research, Canellos, Washington bureau chief for the Globe, writes in his weekly "Capital Perspectives" column. However, Canellos writes that Bush would be unlikely to lift the restrictions because such a decision would be a "demonstration of how policies based on religious values are impervious to the usual political constraints, be they scientific evidence, changed circumstances or growing popular opinion" (Canellos, Boston Globe, 11/9).
- Chico Enterprise-Record: Although the Enterprise-Record opposed Proposition 71 because of the state budget deficit, the passage of the measure "should be a boon to California and could be good for the world if stem cell research lives up to its potential," an Enterprise-Record editorial states. According to the editorial, the $3 billion "investment dwarfs that of the federal government and is a purposeful effort to sidestep restrictions put on federal funding for such research by the Bush administration." The measure will enable California universities to recruit top scientists, launch new research and develop new facilities, the Enterprise-Record says. However, the editorial states that California runs the "risk" that new treatments from stem cell research "may still be years away" and that "the infusion of money won't give birth to a big, new industry" (Chico Enterprise-Record, 11/9).