Perspectives on CIRM’s future

What does the future hold for the California Stem Cell Agency, CIRM?

AP Science Writer, Alicia Chang, weighs in with a new piece, quoting a number of scientists including me.

As much as others are considering the future of CIRM, CIRM itself is thinking about this key question itself about halfway through its originally charted lifespan.

What’s next for CIRM?

At some point in the next 10 years most likely CIRM will evolve into a private, non-profit organization that would have the goal, as CIRM board Chairman Jonathan Thomas (JT) is quoted “…to keep the momentum going.” From my perspective this seems very wise. CIRM grants funded in its current form as a public agency will likely end sometime around the year 2021 so staff will be needed to manage those, but well before that we can expect CIRM to have a twin private organization. However, it is still possible CIRM could continue as a public California agency if funding can be worked out perhaps in some other way besides an initiative, but who knows. Leaders such as Bob Klein have made the improbable become reality so I wouldn’t count out that possibility yet.

What about its mission looking forward?

CIRM remains more relevant and important than ever for many reasons including scientific, medical, legal, and political.

Scientifically and in terms of biomedical advances, CIRM has been and continues to be transformational.

From legal and political perspectives, there are many threats to stem cell research. For example, many of us are concerned that later this year federal funding of ES cell research will once again become illegal when a 3-judge panel of a federal court rules. Political and moral extremists are more powerful than ever. Even supposedly mainstream Republicans are successfully being bullied into anti-science decisions. While rightly it is not CIRM’s mission to directly counter such opponents of stem cell research, at the same time CIRM serves as a stabilizing force for good and a leader in the stem cell field.

Later this week I will do a second post, which is looking quite interesting and provocative, where I relay some feedback from the stem cell community on CIRM’s future and possible changes looking ahead.

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