Update on CIRM’s future: will it include 2020 measure?

Robert Klein, CIRM
Robert Klein, 2017 CIRM Meeting. Image credit: David Jensen, California Stem Cell Report
Robert Klein, CIRM
Robert Klein, 2017 CIRM Meeting. Image credit: California Stem Cell Report

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, more widely known as CIRM, has accomplished big things over the course of its history of about a decade and sparked a great deal of innovation, but what does the future hold for our stem cell agency?

CIRM has a new, respected President and CEO Maria Millan solving one of several challenges, but at present it doesn’t have an established concrete funding stream for when the Proposition 71 funding runs out in a few years. What happens next in terms of funding? Could a new bond measure a la Prop. 71 be initiated targeting the 2020 election cycle? There’s been a lot of talk about that idea, but what would its chances be of passing with voters here in California?

Over at California Stem Cell Report, David Jensen has been covering CIRM’s future funding options more often lately including a recent piece that discusses the 2020 proposition idea and a recent agency meeting to brainstorm future options. Jensen’s piece uses some evocative, discouraging words and strong adjectives to describe CIRM’s potential fate including “withering death.”

I don’t see things as so bleak and remain hopeful on the agency’s future. It’s unclear how California voters will be feeling about all this in 2020, but with our stem cell agency we are just now getting to the exciting part. The helping patients part. As a past grantee myself, I know how much the funding can make impact to advance science, whether basic, clinical, or somewhere in between.

At the recent brainstorming meeting on the agency’s future, there were apparently some upbeat reports of voter sentiment as described by Jensen:

“Robert Klein, a Palo Alto real estate investment banker who ran the 2004 campaign that created the agency, told the CIRM directors of a private poll that he said showed 70 percent of Californians supported stem cell research and continued funds for the stem cell agency.”

What do you think about our stem cell agency’s future?

In terms of clinically relevant science, it is at the most promising point in its history with support for loads of clinical trials. Not all of them will work out, but I’m convinced that some will and other fresh trials that could be initiated with CIRM’s new funding in the future beyond 2020 would bring more hope.

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