May 30, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Stem cell cha-ching! CIRM has economic impact in billions, 56K+ jobs

We here in California have been fortunate to have our own stem cell and regenerative medicine agency called CIRM, standing for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

How much has CIRM helped the California economy and has it had broader economic impacts outside of California? How will that impact its future?

CIRM impact
Graphic on CIRM impact page.

CIRM has been around for more than a dozen years. It was the end result of Proposition 71, which dedicated $3 billion to research funding. CIRM has funded a wide range of research using that money including many areas quite distinct from one of its early missions was a focus on human embryonic stem cell research.

Now CIRM is basically out of funds and to continue in its same robust funding manner it’ll need a new big influx. The other options, if that doesn’t happen, are that CIRM either ends or it continues in a much scaled-down form supported by philanthropy.

This period of transition seems like a logical time to contemplate how the “experiment” in a sense of CIRM has turned out so far. CIRM itself has a whole page on its own impact on its website that is worth a look. In my view, one of the most striking, positive impacts of CIRM has been the 56 clinical trials to which it has contributed funding.

I believe some of those are going to yield approved products that help patients in new ways.

At another level, CIRM’s potential impact can be measured economically, which is the focus of a new, independent report today from the agency. Here’s an overview of the report from CIRM and here’s a link to the actual report itself:

“An independent Economic Impact Report says the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has had a major impact on California’s economy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes, and producing billions of dollars in additional revenue for the state.

The report, done by Dan Wei and Adam Rose at the Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, looked at the impacts of CIRM funding on both the state and national economy from the start of the Stem Cell Agency in 2004 to the end of 2018.”

Sounds very encouraging. I like the fact that this was explicitly an independent analysis and report, even if CIRM paid for it. Here are the main bullet point take-home messages of the report:

  • $10.7 billion of additional gross output (sales revenue)
  • $641.3 million of additional state/local tax revenues
  • $726.6 million of additional federal tax revenues
  • 56,549 additional full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, half of which offer salaries considerably higher than the state average

That $10.7 billion number is striking to me. I’m not an economist, but it’s surprising how far that seems to exceed the total cost of Prop 71 including interest on the $3 billion that went for research. The report also specifies billions more in positive impact outside of California.

That figure of more than fifty-six thousand new jobs is also quite impressive.

CIRM has had some critics over the years including especially earlier on those who opposed ES cell research, but also others who had additional issues such as economic concerns. This report powerfully refutes the notion some have cast lately that CIRM didn’t help California, although I’m betting some of the critics will either ignore the report or question its accuracy.

Overall, I’d say the report is a major shot in the arm for the effort to go back to us California voters to ask for another round of CIRM funding, which I support.

Other factors that may come into play related to the campaign for a potential 2nd round of CIRM funding including federal restrictions on important research such as constraints on fetal tissue research by the Trump Administration and the possibility that they could restrict stem cell research too in some ways. California likes its independence from the feds and is very supportive of cutting-edge biomedical research.

David Jensen over at California Stem Cell Report has more details on this new economic impact report.

Disclosure: much earlier in my career I had a CIRM New Faculty Grant and I have had trainees in my lab who were supported by CIRM training grants.

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