Rich Donors Fund California Stem Cell Research Panel During Lawsuit

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 19, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Rich Donors Fund California Stem Cell Research Panel During Lawsuit Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 19
, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — The California panel charged with disseminating billions of dollars over the next ten years for stem cell research and human cloning hasn’t sold a single bond to raise money for the grants because of lawsuits against it. However, rich donors have kept the agency afloat with millions in private donations.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine can’t sell bonds because they could be worthless if lawsuits against it succeed.

That hasn’t stopped rich Californians from giving CIRM $31 million to allow it to continue operations and make the first round of small grants.

A Washington Post report profiles rich donors such as Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad and sound-technology pioneer Ray Dolby who are giving not only to CIRM but local universities to expand their stem cell research efforts.

Earlier this year, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $100 million to his alma mater Johns Hopkins University.

"I was amazed by the number of wealthy Californians who have stepped up and decided to support a public agency," Owen Witte, director of the new Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at UCLA, told the Post. "I’ve never heard of anything like this."

The lawsuits say the committee has failed to live up to state laws governing open meetings and conflicts of interest and they say the state is legally obligated to have more control over the panel than Proposition 71 set up.

A judge rejected the lawsuits initially, but the taxpayer and pro-life groups behind them appealed.

Susan Spann, one of the attorneys involved with the suits told the Post that state taxpayers who morally oppose embryonic stem cell research and human cloning shouldn’t be forced to fund it with their tax money.

"If they want to do stem cell research, let them fund it privately," Spann said. "Why involve taxpayers in their agenda? Let Dolby fund it, or whoever."

Dale Carlson, a spokesman for CIRM, told the Post that he thinks the lawsuit strategy is backfiring because of the immense private donations.

"The strategy … is to starve the research for stem cells, especially human embryonic stem cells. Instead, the amount of private money that’s going into stem cell research is breathtaking," he said.

Other state governments have approving putting taxpayer funds into stem cell research as well, including Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, Connecticut and New Mexico.