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Private Donations To California Stem Cell Agency Causes Nationwide Surge In Personal Giving For Stem Cell Research, Washington Post Reports

November 13, 2017

The "almost unprecedented" private donations to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine -- the state's stem cell research institute -- have allowed the agency to begin operations despite legal challenges to its constitutionality and have "triggered a wave" of private giving for research across the country, the Washington Post reports (Geis, Washington Post, 12/19). State voters in November 2004 approved Proposition 71 to provide $295 million annually for 10 years for human embryonic stem cell research, and two taxpayer groups and the California Family Bioethics Council in 2005 filed a lawsuit arguing that the measure violates the state constitution. California Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw in April ruled that the plaintiffs failed to show the proposition "is clearly, positively and unmistakably unconstitutional," and the plaintiffs appealed the ruling. While the suits are pending, CIRM is unable to sell state bonds required to fund the program, institute officials have said. The California Stem Cell Research and Cures Finance Committee last month unanimously approved a $181 million loan to CIRM, which includes $150 million from the state's general fund that was ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in July and $31 million from private donations (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 11/21). Private donations also have funded construction of new stem cell labs at universities across the state. "The strategy of the folks that are opposing (stem cell research) -- the folks that are suing us, for example -- is to starve the research for stem cells, especially human embryonic stem cells," CIRM spokesperson Dale Carlson, said, adding, "Instead, the amount of private money that's going into stem cell research is breathtaking." John Kessler, head of the stem cell research center at Northwestern University, said approval of Proposition 71 made "a lot of people all over the country sit up and take notice and say, 'Wait a minute. California's doing this -- what are we doing here?'" Columbia University, Cornell University and Harvard University are using private donations to improve stem cell labs, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) earlier this year donated $100 million to Johns Hopkins University, mostly for stem cell research. Susan Spann, one of the attorneys suing to block Proposition 71, said, "We act like women are just some commodity that are there to donate their eggs to science," adding, "If they want to do stem cell research, let them fund it privately. Why involve taxpayers in their agenda?" (Washington Post, 12/19).

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