For Immediate Release
June 3, 2004
California Stem Cell Research And Cures Initiative Qualifies For November Statewide Ballot
Measure Provides Opportunity to Turn Hope for Cures Into Reality
(Los Angeles, CA) — The California Secretary of State’s office announced today that the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative has qualified for placement on the November 2, 2004 General Election statewide ballot. Supporters submitted more than one million signatures in April, nearly double the amount required for certification. The initiative would provide desperately needed funds for the development of lifesaving therapies and cures that could save the lives of millions of California children and adults and significantly reduce health care costs.
Medical experts believe stem cell research is the breakthrough medical technology of the 21st Century, holding the promise of new treatments or cures for major diseases that affect millions of people in this state, including diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, spinal cord injuries, blindness, HIV/AIDS and more than 70 other diseases and conditions. Many such diseases and injuries result from the destruction, damage or depletion of essential groups of cells within our bodies. For example, diabetes can result from the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Medical researchers believe that unspecialized stem cells can replace diseased cells within patients, effectively reversing the symptoms of a disease and perhaps even curing it. Some stem cell therapies are already being used successfully, such as bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia. Stem cell research has also led to breakthroughs in treatment of a number of chronic diseases and injuries, including spinal cord injury, juvenile diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
"More than 128 million Americans, including millions of Californians, suffer from diseases or injuries that may one day be cured by stem cell research," said Peter Van Etten, President and CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. "These devastating medical conditions affect a child or an adult in nearly one-half of all families. The California Stem Cell Initiative provides a beacon of hope for millions of California families who grapple each and every day with some of the most degenerative and debilitating diseases."
Illustrating the promise of stem cell research, a wave of bi-partisan support for stem cell research has swept the nation in past weeks and months, stretching from former First Lady Nancy Reagan to other prominent Republicans and Democrats all of whom are actively calling for expanded research funding. Various states and private institutions throughout the nation, including California, are now pursuing efforts to provide adequate and consistent funding at the local level.
The California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative would provide on average $295 million a year over ten years, via tax-free state bonds, in critically needed funding to support life-saving stem cell research. The initiative was developed by a coalition of California families, disease organizations and medical experts determined to close the funding gap for stem cell research.
The initiative is supported by a growing coalition of grassroots supporters that already includes Nobel Prize-winning scientists and medical experts, families involved in patient advocacy and efforts to cure diseases, and organizations like the California Medical Association, American Nurses Association of California, American Diabetes Association, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, ALS Therapy Development Foundation, Parkinson’s Action Network, and the National Coalition for Cancer Research.
Currently, no state level funding for stem cell research exists and political roadblocks have severely limited federal funding for some of the most promising types of stem cell research. In addition, research and medical institutions cannot rely on federal funding for long-term stem cell research programs given that annual research funding appropriations are subject to ever-changing political policies. This initiative steps forward to provide the needed funding for lifesaving stem cell research, requires strict fiscal and public accountability, protects and benefits the state budget, and includes nationally and internationally recognized ethical research standards.
“This measure not only offers the vast potential to cure diseases and reduce human suffering, it is also designed to ensure the financial well-being of the state of California and to boost our state’s economy,” said California State Controller Steve Westly. “It also has potential to reduce California’s long-term healthcare costs by millions of dollars, and to generate new state revenues from patents and royalties that will benefit our state budget for decades to come.”
Recognizing the need to protect and enhance California’s financial health, the bond measure is designed to be self-funding. Repayment of bond principal and interest from the state’s General Fund would be deferred for five years, until 2010, protecting our state budget during this time of economic recovery. California will also benefit from patents and royalties that result from the research and tax revenues generated by new construction and research jobs. Individual taxpayers are protected, as no new taxes are required to fund its implementation.
“This initiative is a win-win for California, funding research into debilitating diseases while investing in the California economy to create thousands of new jobs in a groundbreaking field of medical research,” said the state’s leading bond authority, State Treasurer Phil Angelides. “This bond proposal represents a smart investment in Caifornia’s economy and meets the test of long-term fiscal responsibility.”
In addition to generating revenue, the initiative could significantly reduce health care costs in California. Currently, Californians spend more than $118 billion annually on health care expenses. If stem cell research results in a single cure that reduces these costs by just one percent, the initiative would pay for itself several times over during the following decade.
"California has the highest health care costs in the nation, and a lot of those costs are from debilitating diseases and injuries," said State Senator Deborah Ortiz, Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and author of the landmark law protecting stem cell research in California. "On top of the benefits stem cell research will bring to individual lives and families, this initiative can help cut the state's skyrocketing healthcare costs by developing life-saving treatments and cures and reducing the need for expensive, long-term care."
The initiative would establish a cutting-edge research institute that will fund all aspects of stem cell therapy development, from basic research through clinical trials to the actual delivery of therapies to patients. All grants and facilities funded by the Institute must be used and constructed in California.
“The passage of the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative will be a clarion call to science,” said Paul Berg, PhD, Professor of Cancer Research, Emeritus at Stanford University Medical Center and Nobel Prize winner. “I trust in the people of California to see the merit, and to see the possibility it has for improving their own health and economic environment as well.”