California Stem Cell Directors to Air $5.5 Billion Refinancing Measure.........


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California Stem Cell Report
NOVEMBER 04, 2019

California Stem Cell Directors to Air $5.5 Billion Refinancing Measure: Some Less Than Pleased

Directors of California's 15-year-old stem cell research program, which is now down to its last few millions, next week will take up a $5.5 billion proposal to refinance the effort, and not all of them like it.

The proposed ballot initiative has been submitted to state election officials. But it still can be changed up to Monday Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. That is three days after the 29-member governing board has scheduled a discussion of the complex, 30-page measure. That meeting is scheduled for Friday Nov. 15 at 9 a.m.

The only person who can make changes in the measure is Robert Klein, the first chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known. Klein is the official sponsor of the new initiative as he was on the initiative, Proposition 71, that created CIRM in 2004. His current measure would go on the November 2020 ballot.

Klein, a Palo Alto real estate investment banker, is also chairman and founder of Americans for Cures, a stem cell research advocacy group.

During a sometimes testy meeting last week, some CIRM directors said that Klein's new measure contained features that, in the words of one, were "not helpful." Directors did not go into details about the substance of the proposal, but debated mostly about whether it should be publicly reviewed by the board before the deadline for making changes.

Klein's original, 2004 measure financed CIRM with the issuance of state bonds, which are now running out. It did not provide other substantial sources of cash. Today the agency is down to roughly $27 million, which is earmarked for sickle cell research. CIRM directors gave away $54 million last Thursday for research into eye disease, Parkinson's and epilepsy, among other afflictions.

Last Wednesday, CIRM Director Jeff Sheehy, who has served on the CIRM board since its inception, released to the California Stem Cell Report, a 3,300-word critique of Klein's new measure. On Thursday, Sheehy brought up Klein's measure at the board meeting during a discussion of CIRM planning in 2020. CIRM Chairman Jonathan Thomas ultimately said a number of directors had questions about the initiative and proposed a full board meeting before the deadline for changes.

The California Stem Cell Report has asked Klein via email whether he has closed the door to possible changes. Separately Klein has been asked for a written response to Sheehy's analysis, which the California Stem Cell Report will carry verbatim when it is forthcoming.

The Nov. 15 meeting is expected to be available online with public participation via the Internet. Telephonic sites are expected to be available in addition to CIRM's Oakland headquarters. Here is a link to the agenda with details.

(Editor's note: An earlier version did not carry a link to the agenda since it was not posted online at the time this item was written.)