By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC
The sense of entitlement of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and its supporters would choke a cow. California is about to run out of cash! — and its supporters worry that it might lose the ability to borrow even more money to bury my state under an even bigger mountain of debt. From Nature’s story:
Given that California is facing severe budget shortfalls, several billion dollars more for stem-cell science may strike residents as a luxury that they can ill afford. It may also prove difficult for CIRM’s supporters to point to any treatments that have emerged from the state’s investment. So far, the agency has funded only one clinical trial using embryonic stem cells, and that was halted by its sponsor, Geron of Menlo Park, California, last November.
Yet the institute has spent just over $1 billion on new buildings and labs, basic research, training and translational research, often for projects that scientists say are crucial and would be difficult to get funded any other way. So the prospect of a future without CIRM is provoking unease. “It would be a very different landscape if CIRM were not around,” says Howard Chang, a dermatologist and genome scientist at Stanford University in California.
Oh, cry me a river. Our schools are in terrible trouble. Medicaid is being cut. Infrastructure is becoming pot hole central. Cities are going bankrupt. The worries about well paid university stem cell scientists and adminstrators at CIRM making huge salaries are pretty low on the list — particularly given the billion dollar endowments many of these universities have. They have plenty of money. They don’t need more from those who couldn’t afford the tuition at places like Stanford — even if their children could get in.
If the CIRM is so important, let private philanthropists foot the bill:
CIRM is developing plans to help its grantees to continue their work if the agency closes. One option is a non-profit ‘venture philanthropy’ fund that would raise money from private sources to support stem-cell research. The agency is also writing a strategic plan for the rest of its ten-year mandate that focuses on translating research into the clinic, acknowledging that CIRM’s best shot at survival — and at sustaining future funding for stem-cell researchers — could come from a clinical success.
That’s why it started funding adult stem cell research — even though its legal charter is supposed to “give priority” to forms of research for which there are restrictions from the Feds — meaning embryonic and human cloning. BUT let me be clear — even if the CIRM promised never to fund another embryonic stem cell study or human cloning research initiative, it should still go out of public business. California can’t afford to pay for very expensive and theoretical research when so many other immediate priorities and necessities are going wanting.
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