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Scam Cell, Continued

Monday December 21st, 2015   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 5:38am PST   •  

CIRM_200California’s $3 billion Stem Cell Research and Cures Act, Proposition 71, promised life-saving cures and therapies for a host of afflictions including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In 2004 voters approved the measure, which created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. CIRM drew down the money and spent lavishly, but ten years later in 2014, “No California-financed cures or therapies have reached the clinic and none are likely to do so for years, if then,” wrote David Jensen of the California Stem Cell Report, who has been watching CIRM since 2005.

On December 17, 2015, Jensen authored a piece in the Sacramento Bee headlined “California stem cell agency adopts spending plan aimed at bringing cures to market.” So are the life-saving cures now available? “None, however, has emerged through the stem cell agency,” explains Jensen, who charts how CIRM wants to spend $620 million on clinical work and translational research, including $50 million for “educational programs” and another $50 million for “infrastructure.” CIRM plans a number of “translating” centers, at $15 million a pop, “to negotiate federal rules and regulations, and win ultimate approval of a therapy.” This might excite UC Davis, “which has received $127 million so far from CIRM. ” In practice this state agency has always functioned as the California Institute for the Redistribution of Money.

Real estate tycoon Robert Klein cleverly wrote Prop. 71 to install himself as the institute’s chairman, and the CIRM board once gave money to a for-profit company for which Klein had lobbied, even though the institute’s own scientific reviewers twice rejected the proposal. Klein protected CIRM from almost all legislative oversight by requiring a 70 percent supermajority of both houses to make any structural or policy changes. He awarded huge salaries to CIRM bosses and provided a soft landing spot for over-the-hill politicians.

Despite all the redistribution of money the institute remains a medical and scientific bust. A ballpark figure for the number of cures CIRM has produced is zero. For patients, taxpayers and legislators alike, that figure should double for the future funding this outfit deserves.

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December 2015