Human Exceptionalism

Lead Into Gold: California to Fund Alternative Stem Cell Research

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, once dedicated to funding human cloning and ESC research, has shifted gears. Now, it is going to also fund alternative research that does not create or destroy human embryos. From the story:

California’s stem cell agency plans to spend up to $13 million on research in 2008 to investigate techniques that do not destroy human embryos. It’s a shift from the institute’s original goal of funding mostly embryonic stem cell research.

Of course, the CIRM spokesperson claims that this was the plan all along:

The institute had been preparing to finance research into promising alternatives to using human embryonic stem cells months before the November breakthrough was announced. Arlene Chiu, who resigned as a chief scientist at the institute in August, was the key figure in developing the institute’s plans to find new cell lines. “We want to support the full spectrum of human pluripotent stem cell types and experimental approaches,” she said at an Oct. 3 meeting of institute directors in San Diego…

The plan to fund businesses drew a cautionary note from CIRM watchdog John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica. He noted the current controversy over conflicts of interest at the institute, which has prompted the California state controller to order an audit of the entire agency.

But Proposition 71 would seem to prevent this since “priority” was to be given to funding areas the Feds didn’t, or in which the NIH imposed “restrictions.” Alternatives are fully funded by the Bush policy, and indeed, James Thomson received a grant from the NIH for the work that lead to the American share of the great human iPSC breakthrough. This raises some issues of legality, but don’t expect anyone to interfere.

The CIRM also intends to engage in corporate welfare:

The agency is also opening up its grant process for the first time to for-profit businesses.

The question has to be asked whether we still need the CIRM. But, “the scientists” both in the private, for-profit sphere and their business partners in the universities are ready to feed at the trough. Thus, even though California is at least $10 billion in the red for this budget year, politicians are too invested in this spending to stop borrowing money now.


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