Prop. 14 will continue CA’s life-saving stem cell research

A liquid nitrogen bank containing a suspension of stem cells. (Photo: Elena Pavlovich, via Shutterstock)

What sets California apart is our ability and desire to lead. California’s forward-looking leadership has improved the lives of those who live here – and around the world. The Golden State boasts the 5th largest economy, the biggest and best public university systems and, thanks to support from California voters, it’s the global epicenter for advancing stem cell research and treatments for chronic diseases and conditions that will afflict nearly all California families.

This November, voters will have the opportunity to continue fighting chronic disease by voting yes on Proposition 14 — which will continue stem cell research and therapy development for more than 75 chronic diseases and conditions, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease and COVID-19.

While several clinical trials are still in early stages, the remarkable results suggest that the regenerative capacity of stem cells are helping a wide variety of patients.

When Californians passed the state’s first stem cell initiative in 2004, they established the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to fund the most promising medical research at universities and institutions throughout California, including UCLA, UC San Francisco, UC San Diego, Scripps Research Institute, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and many others.

It takes 12-to-15 years, on average, for new discoveries to progress from the lab through clinical trials – even then, a small fraction will gain FDA approval. CIRM has defied those odds. The average CIRM grant is less than 7 years old, yet CIRM funding has led to more than 90 FDA-authorized clinical trials and 2 FDA-approved lifesaving treatments for previously fatal forms of cancer.

While several clinical trials are still in early stages, the remarkable results suggest that the regenerative capacity of stem cells are helping a wide variety of patients. Type 1 Diabetics are producing insulin. Quadriplegics are regaining upper body function. Blind patients are regaining their sight. Re-engineered immune cells are helping cancer patients battle several forms of cancer. Therapies have been developed to help regenerate organs and tissues that have been lost or damaged by various diseases and conditions. Completion of these clinical trials is essential to develop these therapies for general use.

Promising clinical trials are also underway for leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian cancer, kidney disease and more. Several of these trials are expected to result in FDA-approved treatments in a few years, and CIRM’s nearly 3,000 published medical discoveries have created the basis for more to come. But, if California voters do not pass Proposition 14, the state’s journey ends here.

The reality is that California is the only state with the infrastructure and intellectual capital to advance these clinical trials and medical discoveries through to widely available, FDA-approved treatments. While the federal government primarily funds early research, private funders almost exclusively invest in late-stage clinical trials where they can profit faster at lower financial risk – leaving a glaring funding gap that often ends promising research. CIRM bridges this critical gap, ensuring that potential life-changing cures are not left stranded. California’s unique approach is one of the many reasons why California has been able to achieve more progress faster than experts thought possible.

California cannot afford to lose this opportunity. Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and the leading driver of healthcare costs and bankruptcies. California’s healthcare spending has more than doubled in the last decade – as it continues to rise, it is placing increasing spending constraints on other priorities. We must also seize this opportunity to stimulate California’s economic recovery – Proposition 14 will create jobs, generate additional state tax revenue, and won’t cost the state anything until 2026.

Proposition 14 could potentially save millions of lives and billions of dollars. There’s no other entity – private or public – that will take it from here. Vote YES on Prop 14 to advance stem cell treatments and cures that could save your life or the life of someone you love.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Tracy Grikscheit is chief of pediatric surgery at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

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