California Capitalists, Google Owner Back Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 25, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Capitalists, Google Owner Back Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Maria Gallagher Editor
May 25, 2004

Sacramento, CA ( — Silicon Valley is pouring riches into the coffers of a campaign to fund anti-life embryonic stem cell research in California.

Recently, venture capitalist Joseph Lacob, a partner with the firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, donated a half-million dollars to the effort to place a funding issue for fetal stem cell research on the November ballot. In addition, William Unger of Mayfield Venture Capital contributed $50,000 to the campaign, while the John Doerr family, who own a sizeable share of the Internet search engine known as Google, has contributed nearly a million dollars.

Published reports say that Silicon Valley venture capitalists and their relatives have contributed more than $1.8 million to the campaign, which also has the backing of some Hollywood heavyweights.

Not surprisingly, the campaign is also supported by biotech pioneers such as George Rathmann, co-founder of Amgen; William Rutter, co-founder and chairman of Chiron; and James Rooney, vice-president of Gilead Sciences.

The initiative also has heavy lobbying support from organizations that are dedicated to finding cures for diseases such as juvenile diabetes.

Ironically, embryonic stem cell research has shown little promise in combating disease. The vast majority of studies indicate that adult stem cell research, which does not involve the destruction of human embryos, holds far greater promise in treating diseases ranging from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s.

The California initiative appears to be a "clone-and-kill" measure which forbids cloning for reproduction, or to make babies, but permits it for scientific research. Once the embryonic stem cells are harvested, the tiny human beings produced from the cloning would be killed.

Pro-life groups and religious organizations, led by the Catholic Church, are expected to mount an opposition campaign to the ballot initiative.

Backers of the research plan claim it would make California a "world leader" in embryonic stem cell research and would boost the state’s flagging economy. The proposition promises to provide $295 million each year in funding for ten years.

But pro-life leaders believe that promoters of the measure are trying to sell Californians on a golden dream that will prove tarnished–once the scientific facts are revealed.

Carol Hogan of the California Catholic Conference told the Associated Press, "We think it’s really outrageous to grant a constitutional right to conduct stem cell research."

Hogan added the opposition camp expects to be vastly outspent by promoters of such embryo experimentation. Opponents say they’ll be lucky to raise a million dollars by the election.

Meanwhile, some venture capitalists say their support for the ballot initiative is based solely on self-interest.

"It’s entirely personal," Michael Gordon of Meritech Capital Partners told the AP. "I’m a diabetic and have been for 38 years."

While Meritech has no biotech investments, Kleiner Perkins does. The firm helped to launch the biotech industry when it established Genentech in 1976. Genentech is the world’s second largest biotech company.

Related web sites:
California Catholic Conference –