Venture Capitalists Among Largest Donors to Campaign in Favor of Measure To Fund Stem Cell Research
Venture capitalists to date have raised about half of the total $19 million collected for the campaign in favor of Proposition 71, a bond measure on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot to fund stem cell research, prompting criticism that investors are "lining up to profit" from the taxpayer-funded bond measure, the Los Angeles Times reports (Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 10/18).
Proposition 71 would fund stem cell research by issuing state bonds to raise an average of $295 million annually over a decade to promote research and provide funds for a new stem cell research center at a University of California campus, as well as grants and loans for laboratory projects at other colleges. State analysts say the measure would cost a total of $6 billion, including interest (California Healthline, 10/15).
Four of the measure's backers contributed at least $1 million, and two others gave $770,000 or more, the Sacramento Bee reports. Nearly $4 of every $10 raised for the initiative came from a venture capitalist, according to the Bee.
Critics of the measure, who have raised about $160,000 to oppose the initiative, said the public, not venture capitalists, should profit from any successful treatment derived from stem cell research funded by Proposition 71 (Mecoy, Sacramento Bee, 10/16).
Wayne Johnson, a political consultant leading the opposition, said, "Voters in California know when people are writing millions and millions of dollars in checks ... it's almost always because they're going to get a direct monetary benefit" (Los Angeles Times, 10/18).
Robert Klein, Proposition 71 campaign chair, said the initiative's sponsors have not accepted donations from any pharmaceutical firms or biotech companies that they thought could profit from the initiative (Sacramento Bee, 10/16).
Supporters of the measure said the large donations "reflect a web of personal relationships among wealthy people who have" experienced diseases that stem cell research could cure or "believe in" the potential it has to lead to new treatments.
Venture capitalist Joseph Lacob, who with his wife contributed more than $1 million to the "Yes on Proposition 71" campaign, said, "There's no money going to be made from this today. It's all about basic research. It's about finding cures for diseases" (Los Angeles Times, 10/18).
However, some campaign donors say that the investment could prove lucrative if the stem cell research successfully leads to new treatments.
Venture capitalist Franklin Pitcher Johnson said, "There is a business aspect to it," adding, "It would be naïve to expect otherwise" (Sacramento Bee, 10/16).
The Times on Sunday looked at stem cell research in terms of the potential effects, the science's infancy, the measure's funding mechanism and the debated "therapeutic cloning" that would be funded by the initiative. The article considers whether the investment in stem cell research is justified; the likelihood of the research to produce therapies; the risks of stem cell research; and the possibility of developing cures without using embryonic stem cells (Mestel, Los Angeles Times, 10/17).
Additional information on Proposition 71 is available online.