March 3, 2024

Mired in lawsuits, Proposition 71 slows to a crawl

Nearly a year after California voters approved a US$3 billion bond issue to finance embryonic stem cell research by voting 3 to 2 for Proposition 71, the program is so bogged down in litigation that no public financing will arrive “for the foreseeable future”, says the Sacramento Bee. The bonds are unsellable because of numerous lawsuits lodged by tax groups and opponents of embryonic stem cell research. The legal thickets could take another 9 to 15 months to clear.

However, the chairman of the agency overseeing the stem cell program, Robert Klein, has once again showed his mettle as a innovative financier. He has created “bond anticipation notes” to fund $45 million in grants which universities will use to train student researchers. He hopes that philanthropic investors will turn their investment into donations if the agency were to lose the legal battle. The money could arrive as early as October — if he manages to hurdle yet another lawsuit seeking to block the sale of these notes as well.

Opponents of the agency are also criticising the “secrecy” of its operations. For instance, 26 California universities and non-profit institutes queued up for the training grants, but only 12 have been chosen by a committee of scientists and patients’ advocates. The names of the losers were kept secret, even from the committee, to avoid embarrassing them. Critics derided this as ludicrous. “I think they have to be big boys and girls here,” said Susan Fogel, of the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research.