Proposition 14: Stem cell research

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The basics

What would Proposition 14 do?

Have California continue funding stem cell research, by borrowing up to $5.5 billion.

Prop. 14 would generate the money to keep open the state’s own stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and expand its research capacity. That would include dedicating $1.5 billion for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy, and other brain and central nervous system diseases. The rest of the money would go for other research, medical training, building new research facilities and expanding treatment access.

The state would sell investors bonds worth $5.5 billion, and taxpayers would then pay back that money, with interest, over the next 30 years. Estimated cost: $7.8 billion.

Why am I voting on this?

It may seem like eons ago in political years, but in the early 2000s a political war had erupted over embryonic stem cell research.

Think of the stem cells that make up human embryos as blank slates — uniquely useful to researchers, they haven’t yet differentiated to form vastly different parts of the body. To maintain a cell supply, scientists must destroy lab-created human embryos, typically produced for in-vitro fertilization. Pro-life advocates likened this to abortion, leading then-President George W. Bush to ban federal funding for research using new embryonic stem cells.

Touting possible cures for diseases from Parkinson’s to paralysis, Californians opted in 2004 to fill the federal void by borrowing $3 billion to create California’s own stem cell agency. Now that money is drying up. Without a fresh infusion, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine will cease to exist.

Supporters say

The institute’s stem cell research has led to clinical trials, biotech jobs, and research toward treatments or cures for ailments affecting half of California families. The primary beneficiaries of the institute’s grants are University of California labs and hospitals. The state also has collected  royalties on successful stem-cell developments, and would continue to do so on future breakthroughs.

Opponents say

We gave it a try, but funding stem cell research didn’t lead to the kind of life-saving cures voters hoped for in 2004. The federal government no longer bans federal dollars from supporting embryonic stem cell research, which was the reason California got involved in the first place. Plus the institute, one of the few state agencies not overseen by the Legislature, has had issues in the past with conflict of interest. 

Who's for it:

  • University of California Board of Regents

  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

  • The Latino Cancer Institute

  • Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom

  • California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Board of Directors

Who's against it:

  • Jeff Sheehy, board member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

  • Los Angeles Times editorial board

  • San Francisco Chronicle editorial board

  • Mercury News & East Bay Times editorial boards

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Finances

How is this being bankrolled?

Major Donors in Support

  • Robert N. Klein II, Silicon Valley real estate developer and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine's first board chair

  • Dagmar Dolby, philanthropist and widow of Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories

  • JDRF International, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Major Donors in Opposition

  • California Pro Life Council

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