If passed in November, Proposition 14 will authorize $5.5 billion dollars in general obligation bonds to fund the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s, or CIRM’s, stem cell research grants.
CIRM was formed in 2004 by Prop. 71, which issued $3 billion in general obligation bonds for stem cell research in California. CIRM provides grants to research entities exploring the field, according to the California general election voter guide. Stem cells, which can be developed into more specialized cells, can potentially prevent or cure certain diseases by regenerating tissue and other cells.
The UC system in particular has received the greatest amount of grants from CIRM for stem cell research, according to the voter guide.
Now that the funds from Prop. 71 are running out, Prop. 14 would continue to provide funding for CIRM through additional bonds. According to the voter guide, the proposition, if passed, would cost an estimate of $7.8 billion including interest, amounting to an average of about $260 million per year for approximately 30 years.
Jeff Sheehy, CIRM governing board member, said Prop. 71 was supported in 2004 because of federal restrictions on stem cell research imposed by the Bush administration.
“Historically, the federal government, through the National Institutes of Health, funds biomedical research,” Sheehy said. “It was a total anomaly for the state to do it, and the only reason the state did it in 2004 is because this one area of research was thwarted for ideological reasons.”
Sheehy, who is opposed to Prop. 14, said these federal restrictions are no longer applicable due to the fact that modern stem cell research does not require embryos. This form of research has not caused any “moral reservations,” according to Sheehy.
He added that taking out bonds for Prop. 14 would exacerbate the California budget deficit, a deficit that is increasing because of the ongoing pandemic.
“If you followed the construction of the budget over the last six months with the coronavirus crisis, the California budget has gigantic holes,” Sheehy said.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the California Democratic Party and the Parkinson’s Foundation have all expressed support for Prop. 14.
At a meeting March 18, the UC Board of Regents also voted to endorse the proposition.
Claire Holmes, UC Office of the President spokesperson, said at the meeting that the funding from CIRM has supported research at “nearly every” UC campus. UC Davis found a way to prevent spina bifida, a defect that affects the spine, before birth using stem cells, Holmes added.
Additionally, UCSF and the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have used stem cell research to find ways to protect the brain from Parkinson’s disease, Holmes said.
“I want to emphasize how remarkable the science has been, how remarkable everybody who served on the board was and how dedicated all the scientists throughout our state were and what breakthroughs it led to,” said Sherry Lansing, UC regent and former CIRM board member, at the meeting.
Californians will decide whether to provide additional state funding for stem cell research through Prop. 14 on Nov. 3.