It's been a while since I mentioned Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. If anything, this proposition is looking even more like it will steamroller through the voting process than it did two months ago. The TV advertising campaign has kicked off and Chris Mooney notes the figures:
Last month, 45 percent of voters said they supported it and 42 said they didn't.
Now, the Los Angeles Times has done a new poll which finds that 54 percent of voters support the initiative, 32 percent oppose it and 14 percent are uncertain.
I just watched the ads. I'd encourage everyone to do so, because I'd like to start a discussion about whether people think they're persuasive. My sense is that they are extremely effective--especially the one in which the UCSF diabetes researcher says he's basically certain that a cure will arise from embryonic stem cell research.
If this initiative passes, the embryonic stem cell debate is basically over, no matter who wins the presidency. With the research money that California will provide, embryonic stem cell research will surely either prove its worth or falter.
Is Proposition 71 a good plan for long term research results, and how will the law of unintended consequences come back to bite us on this one? Proposition 71 is more than just money - it's a boatload of primed-for-expansion medical research regulation and bureaucracy as well. We shall see whether this short term boost to research funding can outweigh any longer term negative consequences.
Along this line of thinking, here is a piece from the Sacramento Bee earlier in the week:
There's a right way and a wrong way to fund new stem cell research in California. The wrong way is Proposition 71, which would borrow to pay for research grants.
Establishing an institute for stem cell research would be a fine complement to the state's bold 2000 plan, approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, to establish four California Institutes of Science and Innovation - $75 million each for facilities and equipment, $25 million each for operations. Each institute was required to match the state's $100 million contribution with $200 million from other sources.
This is the right way to make an investment in cutting-edge research.
The state now has the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research, California Nanosystems Institute, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.
A California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for stem cell research would make a fine fifth institute. But do it right. Go through the normal funding process - and require the same 2-to-1 match from private sources.
Personally, I see the higher path as being a withdrawal of all current and threatened legislative restrictions - allowing private for profit and philanthropic funding to flourish - rather than ever greater government control of the research process ... but wishes and horses and all that.