California State Panel Will Fund Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 4, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California State Panel Will Fund Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 4,

Sacramento, CA ( — The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has come under fire since its creation through a state referendum for only funding studies involving human cloning or embryonic stem cell research. The panel has announced it will shift gears and fund alternative research that does not create or destroy human embryos.

The agency plans to spend as much as $13 million in 2008 on techniques that use stem cells without the destruction of human life.

A CIRM spokesperson claims that this was the plan all along.

Arlene Chiu, who quit her position as lead scientist with CIRM in August, is said to be the key person behind the decision.

"We want to support the full spectrum of human pluripotent stem cell types and experimental approaches," she said at an October 3 meeting of the directors of the stem cell panel.

However, John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a watchdog group that initially sued the state over the panel’s alleged violation of several conflict of interest and funding laws, said he was cautious about the news.

He noted that the conflict of interest controversy is still a concern and has led the California state controller to request an audit for the entire agency.

Wesley J. Smith, an attorney and noted bioethics commentator, said he’s not sure Proposition 71, which created CIRM, would allow the panel to fund adult stem cell research.

"Proposition 71 would seem to prevent this since ‘priority’ was to be given to funding areas the [federal government] didn’t, or in which the NIH imposed ‘restrictions,’" he said.

"Alternatives are fully funded by the Bush policy, and indeed, James Thomson received a grant from the NIH for the work that led to the American share of the great human iPSC breakthrough," Smith added. "This raises some issues of legality, but don’t expect anyone to interfere."

Smith also questioned news that CIRM will open its grant process for the first time to for-profit businesses.

"The question has to be asked whether we still need the [panel]," he said.

"Even though California is at least $10 billion in the red for this budget year, politicians are too invested in this spending to stop borrowing money now," he concluded.