Stem Cell Research in California

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CIRM creates a unique environment for stem cell research in California

With funding from CIRM available to California researchers, the state is in a unique position within the United States. Learn more about how CIRM changes the landscape of research in California and about laws in other states.

How will CIRM accelerate stem cell therapies?

As the largest source of funding for stem cell research outside the NIH, CIRM is funding novel research pathways in addition to identifying hurdles to new stem cell therapies and specifically funding approaches to overcome those barriers.

CIRM has funded buildings that are needed in order to do the research without the restrictions that came with federal funding under President Bush.

CIRM Major Facilities Speed Stem Cell Science and Create Jobs [4:20]

CIRM's rounds of funding have specifically targeted areas that will help push stem cell research toward the clinic. Our SEED grants pulled more scientists into stem cell research and the Comprehensive awards supported California's leading stem cell scientists. CIRM encouraged young faculty to commit their labs to stem cell science through two rounds of New Faculty awards, which support those faculty for five years. Training grants and Bridges awards ensure a next generation of stem cell scientists and laboratory personnel to fill the needs of a growing stem cell research sector in Calfiornia. 

This NPR story discusses the value of stem cell funding in California:

CIRM's research grants pull new science into the stem cell pipeline with the Basic Biology awards. These awards also create a better understanding of stem cell biology, which helps scientists at all stages of developing new therapies. The Tools and Technologies awards support the creation of new technologies and tools for overcoming barriers in stem cell research. These will help ensure that the ideas coming out of basic research move quickly down the pipeline to new therapies. The Early Translational awards fund research that moves basic ideas towards therapeutic targets -- a critical step in developing new cures that is traditionally difficult to to fund.

The recent Disease Team awards create a unique collaborative approach to science. Rather than funding individual scientists working in isolation, these innovative awards require scientists to work together to overcome barriers. These teams are committed to bringing a therapy to the FDA within four years -- a dramatic reduction in the normal time required for this stage research. By being strategic about what types of research get funded CIRM will speed the time it takes to go from basic research to new therapies that help treat incurable diseases.

What are the economic implications of stem cell research?

Stem cell research has the potential to treat diseases that currently have high health care costs. Diabetes, for example, is among the most expensive chronic diseases. People with the disease require regular injections of insulin, monitoring equipment, regular doctor visits and have higher healthcare costs due to the eye, kidney, cardiovascular, and neural effects of the disease. Even if a stem cell-based therapy doesn’t entirely cure the disease, reducing its impact would be an enormous economic benefit.

In addition to reduced health care costs, new therapies for some diseases could allow those people to go back to work, or allow their caregivers to work again. This increased productivity brings tax dollars to the state.

Stem cell research is expected to be a boon to the biotech industry, bringing new companies to the state that provide high paying jobs. The new facilities will also provide construction jobs throughout the state.

How does CIRM save the state money?

CIRM funding creates jobs, saves the state health care costs and creates tax revenue. So far, CIRM's 12 major facilities construction projects are generating 13,000 job years of employment, bringing in over $100 million in new tax revenue. In addition, CIRM’s research grants create tens of thousands of additional job years.

CIRM as of January 2010 had not cost the state's general fund any money. The bonds used to fund CIRM's activities were forward capitalized so that the agency paid all its own interest costs for the first five years. Once the state begins paying interest, tax revenue generated by CIRM research grants should exceed interest costs for at least the next three to five years.

New therapies developed through CIRM funding will be available to the state at a reduced cost, reducing state spending on health care. Some new therapies will save money compared to current therapies. Over time, these savings should far exceed CIRM’s costs to the general fund. Furthermore, intellectual property developed through CIRM funding will generate income to the state.

What is happening with stem cell research in other states?

Individual states have passed legislation to allow some forms of human embryonic stem cell research, to provide some funding for the research or to specifically ban some research. A handful of states have passed laws to either fund stem cell research or at least encourage the research. Other states have laws that make the research extremely difficult and in some cases illegal.

What were the federal restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research under President Bush?

Federal institutions could only fund research with human embryonic stem cell lines created before Aug. 9, 2001 when president Bush made his announcement regarding funding for stem cell research. At the time of the announcement it appeared that there were roughly 70 lines available for federal funding, but further investigation reduced that number to 22 lines, and many of those are showing signs of mutation from so many years of growing in a lab.

Despite these restrictions, the NIH is a major funder of stem cell research, though the majority of its funds have gone to adult stem cell research. However federal funds can’t be used to create new human embryonic stem cell lines, research that is critical in order to fulfill the promise of new therapies based on embryonic stem cell research.

In addition to not funding basic research, scientists could not use their equipment or lab space paid for by federal funds to do work with non-federally approved human embryonic stem cell lines. This is why CIRM has invested more than $271 million in grants that fund the construction of new stem cell research facilities where work on all types of stem cells can take place.

How did federal regulations of human embryonic stem cell research change under President Obama?

On March 9, 2009, President Barack Obama lifted the restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001. He then gave the NIH 120 days to prepare the regulations that will guide this funding. The federal government could not begin broad funding of human embryonic stem cell research until after those regulations were finalized, which happened in July 2009. The first stem cell lines to be reviewed and approved under the new guidelines were announced in December.

This decision did put an end to the restrictions on working with new cell lines with federal equipment. Institutions that had previously maintained dual laboratory space and equipment for working with federal and non-federal stem cell lines could immediately start using federal equipment in research with all cell lines.

California Researchers Look Forward to Obama's Stem Cell Research Policies (4:22)

CIRM Statement: Obama's Policies will up the Value of California's Investment in Stem Cells

This NIH page contains information about the federal stem cell policy

Updated 1/10

© 2013 California Institute for Regenerative Medicine