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Voters in California have approved US$5.5 billion in funding for stem-cell and other medical research, granting a lifeline to a controversial state agency. But scientists are split over whether the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) in Oakland is a worthwhile investment for the US state — or for the field of stem-cell research.

A measure to authorize new funds for CIRM, called Proposition 14, appeared on California ballots in the recent US election. After more than a week of vote counting, on 12 November the Associated Press announced that California had passed the proposal, which will be paid for with a state bond sale.

But critics of CIRM are concerned about oversight at the state agency, which has faced complaints about potential conflicts of interest among its board members for years. They also point out that the field has grown and now receives federal support, making state funding hard to justify — especially amid a pandemic that has imperilled California’s economy.

“Unfortunately, Proposition 14 sets a bad example for the use of public money for the advancement of science,”... see more