Long Beach Press Telegram October 6, 2004

Yes on Proposition 71

A modest investment offers a major opportunity in healthcare advances.

A modest investment offers a major opportunity in healthcare advances.

Stem-cell research One of the most noble undertakings of the federal government is to fund and support the most promising avenues of scientific and medical advancement.

Unfortunately the federal government abdicated that honorable duty in 2001 when President Bush severely curtailed funding for stem-cell research, the single most groundbreaking area of research into debilitating and life-threatening diseases.

Californians now have a historic opportunity on the November ballot to correct what the federal government did wrong.

Proposition 71 would authorize the sale of $3 billion in bonds over the next decade to fund stem-cell research. Passage of the initiative would put California back in its rightful place at the center of global cutting-edge medical research, instead of the periphery. It would stop the exodus of our best scientists to other countries, which are now poised to dramatically outpace the U.S. in stem-cell advancements, and lure many expatriate scientists back home.

Best of all, it would increase substantially the prospects for scientists to achieve life-saving breakthroughs in diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's Disease, spinal cord injuries, blindness, HIV/AIDS, and more than 70 other diseases. At this time in history, stem-cell research holds the single greatest hope for a cure to these diseases, and promises to revolutionize our understanding of disease in a way that could lead to the development of new drugs and treatments.

Because stem cells are extracted from days-old embryos, the research is controversial. It shouldn't be. The research uses embryos left over from fertility treatments at in-vitro fertilization clinics. Such days-old embryos, which at that stage a few dozen cells collectively smaller than the point of a pin, are typically destroyed or frozen indefinitely. Hundreds of thousands of such frozen embryos are now in storage at fertility clinics across the nation. If and when treatments are established, they won't require the use of embryonic stem cells.

Opponents of Proposition 71 also cite the cost of the bonds, $300 million a year over the next 10 years. It's true that the state remains in fiscal crisis and voters must think carefully about taking on new debt. And Prop 71 is an admittedly unorthodox way to fund medical research. But it still deserves approval.

Spending money on stem-cell research isn't throwing it down a sinkhole. Proposition 71 is a smart investment with the likely potential to pay huge dividends in high-tech job creation, new revenues for the state, reduced medical expenses, and most importantly, to ease human suffering. Even the fiscally conservative California Chamber of Commerce has lent its support to Prop 71. Multiple business organizations, in fact, have joined medical researchers and patient advocacy groups in support of the initiative.

Simply from a health-care spending standpoint, investment in potential cures makes sense. California spends $118 billion a year on healthcare expenses. If the Proposition 71-funded stem-cell research results in breakthroughs that reduce that cost by just 1 percent, it would pay for the cost of the bond, and more, during the following decade. A 2 percent reduction would bring about a 236 percent payback. And the bonds themselves would increase California's overall bond debt only by less than half of 1 percent.

We are also confident that the bond money would be fairly distributed and well spent. The funds would be distributed to universities, biotechnology centers and research facilities under a time-honored, competitive and merit-based scientific grant process used by the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies. Transparency and public access to meetings and records are built firmly into the initiative.

Proposition 71 asks Californians to take a chance, but not a blind leap into the unknown. Already, through stem-cell research, scientists have enabled rats immobilized with severe spinal chord damage to walk again.

Passage of Proposition 71 would place California at the forefront of medical science, in a position to succeed where the federal government has failed. The Press-Telegram strongly urges a "yes" vote on Proposition 71.

Paid for by YES on 71: Coalition for Stem Cell Research and Cures, #1260661
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