Budget Likely to be Pulled for Stem Cell Research in California

Learning to do more with less: California Institute for Regenerative Medicine must face the future of its success without state funded support

It seems despite the famous words “mo money, mo problems” from the well-known (and loved) 1997 hip-hop song by Biggie Smalls, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in San Francisco is dealing with the opposite situation. They have less money than ever before, and experiencing many, many more problems.

Half of the 3 billion dollars given to the institution from the state of California has been spent, and the other half is expected to dry up by as early as 2021.  It doesn’t look like CIRM will be getting any more money from California either. Jonathan Thomas, the chairman for CIRM has been quoted to say that the institute would be “premature to even consider” receiving any funding from the state in the future.  This, of course, is ominous news for scientists and researchers hoping to make significant breakthroughs in stem cell research during the upcoming years. At the end of the day, no money, mean means no research.  And no research could mean big problems.

With the general economy of the many states in the US in an unfortunate condition, budget cuts must be made. California is no different.  Many residents of the state feel that with several pressing matters to deal with, spending a few billion dollars to support stem cell research is not at the top of their priority list.

In spite of what the public may think, scientists at CIRM have not been sitting idly in the eight years since it was founded.  They have been busy constructing new bindings and labs, training staff, and staring numerous research projects.  Despite all of their efforts, it would be near impossible for the scientists at CIRM to give a single solid example of a fully proven research answer that has arisen in the last eight years.  Much of their findings are preliminary and many others aren’t ready for human trials yet.

It is important to keep in perspective that breaking new ground in the scientific field takes time as well as patience, and that “pulling the plug” so to speak, on stem cell research will do more than retard the progress in that field in the United States- it will essentially stop it completely.  Many other scientific institutes including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute do not support embryonic stem cell research.  Therefore, if the state chooses to no longer fund stem cell research at CIRM, it is highly unlikely they will find funding anywhere other than private sources.

All scientists ask of the public is for patience and a bit of funding.  What could have become of world travel if the Wright brothers gave up on their airplane models halfway through their trials? Where would we be now if Thomas Edison had thrown in the towel after a few failed attempts at the light bulb seemed to be too expensive a task to keep working on? If Watson and Crick weren’t as patient as they were during their time making the first DNA model, would the modern age of genetics have occurred at all?

So many technological advances in science today that we take for granted are a direct result of long years of effort on the part of the scientists working on the experiments.  The most we can do as members of the public is to provide the funding necessary to upkeep the scientists and their experiments, and give a little patience to allow them to get the work done.   Do these two things, and I am quite sure we will have an amazing breakthrough waiting for us in the line of stem cell research.



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