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Funding Cleared for $3B Stem Cell Research in California

May 21, 2007

Texas Voters Likely to Decide on Similar Level for Cancer Research

After years of legal challenges to the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act, the path for funding the $3 billion initiative has been cleared by the California Supreme Court. Texas may soon join the race to fund medical research with its own $3 billion bond issue supporting cancer research.


The California Supreme Court last week declined to hear an appeal challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 71, effectively ending the lawsuits that have held up most of the bond funding for three years, according to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state agency that manages the project.


Voters in 2004 approved the bond issue, which immediately faced challenges from groups opposed to stem cell research. A ruling last year from the Superior Court and Court of Appeals deemed the act to be constitutional in its entirety.


Despite the legal setbacks, CIRM went ahead with its first round of funding last year through the purchase of bond anticipation notes and a $150 million loan from the state’s general fund authorized by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The agency funded $158 million in stem cell research projects, including 103 research grants at 23 nonprofit institutions and 169 research fellows throughout the state.


The Supreme Court decision maintains that no additional litigation can delay issuance of the bonds and allows CIRM to move into the next round of funding. This includes up to $48.5 million in shared laboratories grants and loans and $222 million for major facilities at California universities, research hospitals, medical schools, and research institutes.


A similar bond issue focusing solely on cancer research is likely to make it on the November ballot in Texas. Pending approval by the Senate, voters will be asked to decide on a $3 billion bond issue that provides grants to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. The constitutional amendment calls for grants of up to $300 million annually over the next 10 years through general obligation bonds. The House approved HJR 90 earlier this month.


Although Gov. Rick Perry supports the measure, he pushed for an alternative funding source earlier this year. In his State-of-the-State Address, Gov. Perry proposed using proceeds from the sale of the state lottery instead of a bond proposal for a caner research trust fund that he said could generate more than a quarter-billion dollars each year (see the Feb. 19, 2007 issue of the Digest).