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California Proposition 14: Stem Cell Research Bond

Bryan Jones
Flickr Creative Commons, used under CC BY-NC 2.0
Injecting stem cells into retinas in an experiment to overcome blinding diseases.

This is a 2-minute summary of what’s on the ballot. Click here to listen to them all.

In 2004, Californians approved a $3 bllion bond to fund stem cell research. That money has been pretty much used up and the original backers want to replenish it. Prop 14 is a five-point $5 billion bond to pay for future stem cell research, training, and trials.

Stem cells are the body’s equivalent of a wild card. They are “blank” cells that can develop into cells with a specific purpose. Scientists are trying to use them to find cures for cancer, to fix failing organs, and to develop drugs. If Prop 14 passes, almost a quarter of the money raised would be used to try to fix brain and nervous system diseases, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Who is backing Prop 14? A pretty big list of patient advocacy organizations, scientists, doctors, and specifically a man named Robert Klein. He develops real estate in Silicon Valley, and he was the first board chair of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (or CIRM), which oversees stem cell research. He’s dropped more than $4.5 million dollars to get this on the ballot.

Who’s against Prop 14? For one, there’s the non-profit Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley. Also, while 22 CIRM board members voted to endorse the proposition, one voted against it. Patient advocate Jeff Sheehy wrote:

“After spending all of this money, CIRM has yet to produce a single FDA approved product and the state has not achieved any healthcare cost savings from therapies developed by CIRM.”

Now, it’s up to you. If you want to approve a bond to fund stem cell research, vote yes on Prop 14. If you don’t want Californians to spend those billions, vote no.

Ben joined KALW in 2004. As Executive News Editor and then News Director, he helped the news department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He also helped teach hundreds of audio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today.