State Loan to Stem Cell Agency Approved
A stem cell finance committee led by Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) on Monday approved a state loan of $150 million to the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the Los Angeles Times reports. The committee also approved the agency's selling of $31 million in bond anticipation notes to philanthropic organizations (La Ganga, Los Angeles Times, 11/21).
The majority of the state loan will come from the state's general fund (AP/North County Times, 11/20).
CIRM oversees stem cell research for the state (San Francisco Business Times, 11/20). Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on July 21 pledged state funds to CIRM one day after President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded federal funding of stem cell research (California Healthline, 11/1).
CIRM expects to begin receiving funds in early December (Wasserman, Sacramento Bee, 11/20).
CIRM President Zach Hall said the agency could begin awarding grants as early as February 2007 (Los Angeles Times, 11/21).
Anne Sheehan, chief deputy director of policy for the Department of Finance, said the state loan and bond anticipation notes would be repaid with proceeds from the bond sale once the lawsuits are resolved (Sacramento Bee, 11/20).
California voters in 2004 approved Proposition 71, which provides $3 billion in stem cell research funding over 10 years (Los Angeles Times, 11/21). The funding was primarily intended to finance human embryonic stem cell research.
However, two lawsuits challenging the measure's constitutionality have prevented the agency from awarding grants.
The cases are pending before an appellate court in San Francisco (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 11/20).
Gov. Schwarzenegger said, "Today's action keeps California on the forefront as a national leader in stem cell research" (AP/North County Times, 11/20).
Dana Cody -- executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing People's Advocate in lawsuits challenging Proposition 71 -- said the state should not provide funding for stem cell research while the court cases proceed (Los Angeles Times, 11/21).
"CIRM is making strong progress toward its goal of turning stem cells into therapies and cures," despite ongoing litigation, Hall writes in a Bee opinion piece. According to Hall, CIRM's "ability to support the work will grow, and our grants will accelerate" when the litigation is resolved by the end of 2007.
Hall acknowledges criticism from some for CIRM's policy of identifying only grantees rather than all applicants but writes that the "confidentiality of research applications is long-standing, well-established and widely practiced by both public and private institutions" (Hall, Sacramento Bee, 11/21).