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Randal Mills is stepping down as president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, but that’s not the news. The $3 billion state stem-cell agency is running out of money and according to David Jensen of the California Stem Cell Report, founder Robert Klein “is talking about asking California voters for another $5 billion.” Klein, a wealthy real estate developer, is now with Americans For Cures, which beats the drum for “public funding for stem cell research.”
As taxpayers will recall, Klein was the prime mover of the 2004 Proposition 71, which promised life-saving cures and therapies for a host of diseases, plus a revenue stream from the royalties. A ballpark figure for the royalties is zero because CIRM has failed to create any of the promised cures and therapies. As Jensen delicately puts it, “so far the agency has not backed a stem cell therapy that is widely available.” It’s a $3 billion bust, in other words, but false promises, lack of results and wasteful spending have never prevented California politicians from lending a hand.
The push for $5 billion comes from Art Torres, the former state senator and Democratic Party boss CIRM hired in the early going and immediately tripled his salary. As we noted, former Pete Wilson cabinet secretary Joe Rodota also likes the new $5 billion but wants to fold CIRM into the University of California. He claims this would “build an army of new companies working on cures,” allow the UC to hire more professors, and even reduce the cost of higher education.
Klein might float the $5 billion bond issue in 2018 or 2020. Voters and taxpayers might recall that CIRM handed 90 percent of its grants to institutions with links to past or present board members and the CIRM board was very kind to for-profit companies for whom Klein had lobbied. Based on the record so far, another $5 billion will produce none of the cures and therapies CIRM failed to produce with $3 billion. On the other hand, another $5 billion is certain to secure more conflict of interest, more sinecures for washed-up politicians, and more absurd salaries for bosses. Last year, CIRM paid president C. Randal Mills $573,000, higher than the President of the United States and more than three times the $173,987 salary of governor Jerry Brown.