California’s stem cell research fund dries up

Science | AAAS | 7/9/2019 | Staff
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Stem cell scientists in California who have benefited from a $3 billion state research agency created in 2004, at the height of federal limits on working with cells from human embryos, have long known that it would eventually run out of money. That reality set in last month, when the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in Oakland announced it is no longer taking grant applications.

Ongoing payments for approved projects continue, but scientists are already tightening their belts for a funding gap. They are also contemplating the end of a boom in stem cell research in the state. California’s voters may be asked to renew CIRM with another bond initiative next year, “but there’s no guarantee,” says Arnold Kriegstein, who heads a stem cell center at the University of California (UC), San Francisco, and has received CIRM funding in the past.

CIRM - Grantee - Jeanne - Loring - June

Longtime CIRM grantee Jeanne Loring, who retired in June from the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, and runs a biotech startup to advance one of her projects, says the agency has made the state the “center of the stem cell universe. It would be tragic to unravel [that infrastructure] now. But the funding in 2004 was so dependent on the politics and interest at the time, and I don’t know if those circumstances can be replicated.”

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CIRM initially expected to focus on human embryonic stem cells, but later expanded its remit to more specialized adult stem cells such as those that form blood or the increasingly popular induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, created by reprogramming adult cells to an embryolike state. CIRM’s money led to the creation of major stem cell centers in California and lured several biotech companies to set up shop in the...
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