Stem cell agency founder eyes $5 billion in state funding

A human DNA complex. ((Illustration, Shutterstock)

The man often called the father of the California stem cell agency all but said he is set to launch an effort to pump an additional $5 billion in state funding into the research effort, which is scheduled to run out of cash in about three years.

Robert Klein, a wealthy real estate investment banker, told a packed audience on Thursday at the City of Hope in the Los Angeles area that a public opinion poll would be taken next fall in California to gauge support for a new bond measure to support the agency.  He said that California has the “opportunity and privilege” to “lift the human condition.”

“A revolution is underway,” Klein said.

The agency has yet to produce a stem cell therapy for widespread public use despite the expectations raised by Klein’s campaign 12 years ago.

Klein managed the 2004 campaign that created the stem cell agency, and he oversaw the writing of the 10,000-word initiative that placed the agency’s spending outside of the control of the Legislature and governor. Klein spoke at a day-long symposium involving the state’s soon-to-be $40 million, Alpha stem cell clinic network, which is scheduled to grow from three to five sites later this year.

Researchers, business executives and patients praised the performance of the clinics which were initiated with support from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, as the Oakland-based agency is formally known.

Klein, who served as the agency’s first chairman until 2011, praised its work. He also noted that California has 50 percent of the nation’s biotech infrastructure. He said the state has an historic opportunity to carry the current stem cell research forward.

Klein did not say specifically he would organize a new campaign for a bond measure for the agency. But he was more specific about the voter poll this fall and was optimistic about the future of the research in California. He said,:

“This fall when the citizens of California are polled, I believe they will say (the agency’s) results are encouraging.”

The agency has yet to produce a stem cell therapy for widespread public use despite the expectations raised by Klein’s campaign 12 years ago.

Klein did not say who would fund the poll or how campaign funds would be raised. However, he has an organization called Americans for Cures, which had its origins in the campaign of 2004. That ballot measure effort cost $34 million.

A new bond measure would likely be mounted in the 2018 November general election, which would improve the likelihood of approval plus help to provide timely financial continuity for the agency.

Ed’s Note: Ed’s Note: David Jensen is a retired newsman who has followed the affairs of the $3 billion California stem cell agency since 2005 via his blog, the California Stem Cell Report, where this story first appeared. He has published more than 4,000 items on California stem cell matters in the past 11 years.

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