Visions of a biomedical boom are floating around San Francisco after the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced that the city had been selected as its headquarters. The winning bid included an estimated US$17 million in subsidies. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi now predicts that the Bay City will become the “stem cell capital of the world”, giving the local economy a huge boost.
However, insiders are not quite so optimistic. The head of the University of California at San Francisco, J. Michael Bishop, says “there’s not much of an industry around stem cells yet. We haven’t even figured out how to make the stem cells do what we need them to do to be useful clinically. Until that is done, it’s a pretty shaky base for startups. I’d like to be more rah-rah, but that’s the way it is,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The institute still faces other legal, administrative and financial hurdles. It is being forced to rely upon US$100 million of bridge financing to cover its activities for the first six to nine months because the $3 billion bond issue which voters authorised in November’s election is being held up by litigation. However, the institute has recruited a core group of science advisers, including Australia’s Alan Trounson.
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