September 28, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Why I am super optimistic about CIRM’s future

In the last week, a number of newspapers in California have run articles or editorials about CIRM, some negative. I think in part this attention was stimulated by the Election of a new Chair at CIRM.

The new Chair for CIRM is Dr. Jonathan Thomas, who I am confident will do an outstanding job.

On Monday I sat down to breakfast and opened the Sac Bee to find a negative editorial about CIRM that included the phrase “CIRM is in Trouble” and David Jensen did a post on this editorial here. While CIRM is an appropriate topic for consideration by the Sac Bee and its editorial board, I found this editorial to be way over the top and that phrase in particular about CIRM supposedly being in trouble, is simply factually incorrect.  CIRM is doing great and CIRM-funded research is making amazing advances in stem cell science. CIRM is just over halfway through its original 10-year period, but already it has accomplished more than one might have imagined. My analysis found that CIRM funds more stem cell research than NIH and is in fact the largest funder of stem cell research in the world, a stunning accomplishment.

Yesterday the San Diego Union Tribune (formerly my daily newspaper when I was in grad school at UCSD), also published an editorial not nearly as negative as the Sac Bee. The Union Tribute editors said “stem cell research remains one of the most exciting and important fields in medicine” and that now is the start of a “new era” for CIRM.

As David Jensen pointed out, Nature also did a piece yesterday including an interview with Dr. Thomas that is quite interesting.

I have followed CIRM closely for most of its existence, I’m a CIRM grantee, and I know CIRM extremely well.

From my perspective, not only is CIRM not in trouble to invoke the words of the Sac Editorial, but the reality is quite the opposite–CIRM is doing fantastic and the future looks bright. It has achieved great things and contributed both to the state of California, but also the global stem cell research field in tremendous ways. It’s actually difficult to imagine the stem cell field today without CIRM. There was a time last year when Judge Lamberth invoked his injunction that CIRM was pretty much the only one in the entire U.S. (with rare exceptions) funding human ES cell research until the US Appeals court stayed the injunction.

In our state of California where a lot of things are going wrong, CIRM is an example of something that is going right in a big way boosting the economy and making California the leader in stem cell research perhaps in the world.  Californians should be very proud of their foresight in creating CIRM and of its accomplishments.

No organization is perfect, but if you think about the fact that just a few years ago CIRM did not even exist, then where it stands today is nothing short of amazing and I expect even more in the future from CIRM.