It’s been more than a decade since California launched an unprecedented experiment in medical research by direct democracy, when voters created a $3 billion fund to kick-start the hunt for stem cell therapies.
The bold plan, a response to federal funding limits for embryonic stem cell research, was sold with a simple pitch: The money would rapidly yield cures for devastating human diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS.
That hasn’t happened.
A major reason, a STAT examination found, is that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has been slow to move promising experimental therapies into clinical trials. The National Institutes of Health has supported three and a half times as many human trials of stem cell therapies, dollar for dollar, as the California agency has funded since it started making grants in 2006. Just two of its clinical trials have been completed.
“I am floored by the disparity,” said Jim Lott, a health care consultant and member of the state board that monitors the agency, known as CIRM. If the numbers are correct, he told STAT, “that doesn’t settle well...