Donald Trump’s election victory, oddly enough, could be good news for the future of the California stem cell agency.
It could be George Bush all over again. How does that work, you may ask? Trump is a bit of a blank slate on stem cell issues. He has not addressed them directly. But he is pro-life, a fact being celebrated this morning in the usual pro-life venues.
Given that stance, he is likely to reverse the federal government’s current funding of human embryonic stem cell research. It would be easy to do, basically nothing more than repealing an executive order or issuing a new one.
Such a move would echo the Bush restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research that provided the justification for the 2004 ballot initiative that created California’s $3 billion stem cell research effort. Bush’s opposition energized the scientific and patient communities on behalf of the initiative.
His opposition also helped to raise the $34 million for the electoral campaign that spawned the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the official name of the stem cell agency.
Bush provided a big target for supporters of stem cell research. (See here and here.) He embodied the essence of the “anti-science” crowd. And in politics it is good to have a “demon” that can easily be understood. It simplifies issues, sharpens the focus and stimulates voters.
The stem cell agency is now on track to run out of money in 2020 for new awards. CIRM relies on state bonds for its cash but its ability to issue them is coming to an end. No additional source of funding has been identified.
Assuming Trump bans federal research on human embryonic stem cell research, it would bring new life to the possibility of another multi-billion dollar bond issue in the next few years. A new “demon” would surface. All the agency needs to do now is to come up with a high-impact therapy that would resonate with California voters.
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.