Questions & Answers

What are stem cells, and why is stem cell research so important?

Stem cells are “unspecialized” cells that can generate healthy new cells and tissues. As a result, they have the potential to provide lifesaving cures for many different diseases and injuries, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, ALS, osteoporosis and spinal cord injuries.

It is estimated that 128 million Americans including millions of Californians suffer from diseases and injuries that could be treated or cured with stem cell therapies. In fact, these devastating medical problems affect a child or adult in nearly half of all families.

What are examples of potential treatments using stem cells?

Some types of stem cell therapies, such as bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia, are already successful and widely used. Many other types of stem cell therapies are in early stages of development and could lead to treatments or cures for many different diseases if researchers are provided with adequate funding. For example, recent research indicates that stem cells could be used to cure Type I Diabetes, by restoring pancreatic cells. They also have the potential to provide cures for cardiovascular diseases by restoring damaged regions of the heart.

In recent experiments, stem cell transplants have repaired damaged spinal cords in rats, allowing previously paralyzed rats to regain the ability to walk. And, scientists believe that certain types of stem cells could be used to regenerate healthy nerve and brain cells -- offering the possibility of curing diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

What is the basic purpose of Proposition 71?

The basic purpose is to find cures for currently incurable diseases and save the lives of millions of children and adults, by providing vitally needed funds to support advanced stem cell research at California medical research facilities.

Why is Proposition 71 needed?

The initiative is needed to close a critical research funding gap. Most medical experts view stem cell research as the new frontier in medicine: a huge breakthrough that could save millions of lives if adequate funding is made available to conduct the needed research. But at present, there is no state level funding for stem cell research and political roadblocks have severely limited federal funding for some of the most promising types of stem cell research. Proposition 71 is designed to close this funding gap, so that medical researchers can conduct lifesaving stem cell research in California.

What type of funding does Proposition 71 provide?

Proposition 71 authorizes low-interest, tax-free state bonds that will provide an average of $295 million per year over a 10-year period to fund stem cell research by scientists at California universities and other advanced medical research facilities throughout the state.

How will those funds be distributed?

Proposition 71 will create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. With participation from leading doctors, scientists, patient rights advocates, medical ethicists and research universities, the Institute will oversee the stem cell research program and distribute grants to research institutions in California.

Who will receive funding to conduct this research?

Proposition 71 focuses on funding the type of basic, breakthrough research conducted by universities, medical schools, hospitals and other non-profit research institutions.

Which types of stem cell research will be supported?

Proposition 71 specifically supports all types of stem cell research, including adult, cord blood and embryonic stem cell research. It gives priority to research that is not receiving adequate or timely funding from the federal government, particularly embryonic stem cell research. That’s because there is a clear funding gap in that area of research and because scientists believe embryonic stem cells have the greatest potential to provide cures for some of the most debilitating diseases and injuries. However, all forms of stem cell research will be eligible to receive Prop 71 grants.

How will Proposition 71 assure that this money is spent effectively?

Proposition 71 assures that the bond funds will be used properly and effectively by requiring independent audits, open meetings, public hearings and annual reports to the public. It also creates an Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee and advisory groups that will include the state’s top medical experts, representatives of disease advocacy groups and financial experts.

Where will the research be conducted?

Proposition 71 requires that all research and facilities funded by the Institute must be located in the State of California.

Does Proposition 71 allow funding of human reproductive cloning?

No. Proposition 71 specifically prohibits any funding for human reproductive cloning. Moreover, such human reproductive cloning is already illegal under state law.

Given the state’s current financial situation, how can California afford Proposition 71?

Proposition 71 was carefully designed to protect taxpayers and the state budget. It doesn’t create or increase any taxes. And, the bonds are designed to be self-financing over the short term and long term. The State’s Chief Financial Officers, State Controller Steve Westly and State Treasurer Phil Angelides, have both confirmed that Proposition 71 is fiscally responsible and affordable for our state and have publicly endorsed a YES vote on the measure. In addition, some of the state’s leading business organizations, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, have both supported Prop 71 stating it was a sound investment for our economy.

No general fund payments are required during the first five years, so there’s absolutely no cost to the state’s general fund during this period of economic recovery. Meanwhile, the research funded by Proposition 71 will make California a world leader in stem cell research. It will create thousands of new, good paying jobs and generate millions per year in new state tax revenues.

In addition, Proposition 71, the State will have the opportunity to benefit from royalties that result from the research, which could generate millions more in new state revenues for decades to come. And, finally, the research funded by the initiative could lead to cures that cut health care costs by billions of dollars -- which means that the initiative could pay for itself many times over in the years ahead.

Will the bonds authorized by Proposition 71 strain the state’s bonding capacity?

No. Proposition 71 includes a $350 million cap on the issuance of bonds in any one year which equals less than ½ of 1% of bonds currently outstanding or authorized by the state. The State’s top investment manager, Treasurer Phil Angelides, has declared Proposition 71 a “smart investment that meets the fiscal responsibility test” with the “potential to save our state billions of dollars.”

Isn’t there enough funding already for stem cell research?

No. Currently there is no state level funding for stem cell research and the federal government only funds certain types of research. For example, political roadblocks have virtually cut off federal funding for research involving so-called pluripotent or “embryonic” stem cells the type of stem cells that most scientists believe offers the greatest potential for curing many currently incurable diseases. For a good overview of this important issue, we encourage you to read the recent Time Magazine article on our web site’s news clip page

Why should the State fund this research rather than private companies?

There is a long history of public funding in medical and scientific research, most specifically from the federal government…the US Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In fact, it is estimated that NIH provides roughly 1 in 3 basic biomedical research dollars in the US, including cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS. In addition, historically, society has decided that the surest way to foster scientific advancement is to fund meritorious research projects across disciplines and without regard to it immediate therapeutic benefits, which short-term investment driven companies often focus upon.

Therefore, publicly funded, non-profit research institutions do what they are best at…conducting the research and finding the cure. Then, the private/for-profit companies, and their accompanying private capital, can step forward for the second phase to funnel that cure through the FDA approval process and on to a commercially, viable market. In essence, the two sectors work together by each focusing on the parts of the puzzle that they are uniquely designed to accomplish.

And, California is not alone in this endeavor. Given the federal funding limits, various states across the nation, including California and New Jersey, are seeking mechanisms to provide state funding for stem cell research.

Since John Kerry supports expanded federal funding of stem cell research, will Prop 71 still be needed if he wins the 2004 presidential race?

Yes. Stem cell research has become a political football in Washington and federal funding for scientific research is subject to decisions by Congress – not just the president. Even if Kerry is elected, scientists will still not be able to count on steady, adequate funding from the federal government for all types of stem cell research. They would still face uncertain annual fiscal appropriation processes that are subject to frequent delays and changes caused by party politics and various federal budget considerations.

In order to make major progress in all areas of stem cell research, medical researchers require a consistent, long-term funding source that is not subject to constantly changing decisions by politicians. Proposition 71 is designed to get the politics out of medical research and provide a steady, long-term source of funding for stem cell research in California.

What impact will Proposition 71 have on health care costs?

The research supported by Proposition 71 could significantly reduce our skyrocketing health care costs. California has the highest total health care spending costs in the nation over $110 billion per year. Diseases and injuries that could be cured with stem cell therapies cause a huge share of these costs. By leading to cures that reduce health care costs by just one percent, Proposition 71 could pay for itself within a few years. And, the potential savings could be far greater possibly reducing our costs by tens of billions of dollars in the decades ahead.

Who funded the effort to place Proposition 71 on the ballot?

Supporters of the initiative submitted over one million signatures to the Secretary of State in order to secure placement on the November 2004 ballot. This effort was funded solely by disease and patient advocacy groups, concerned citizens, and friends and families of patients afflicted with many currently incurable diseases and injuries.

Who is supporting Proposition 71?

Proposition 71 – the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative - is supported by a broad coalition of Nobel Prize winning scientists and other top medical experts and researchers, by families involved in patient advocacy and efforts to cure diseases, by Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and by dozens of organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Association – California Council, American Diabetes Association, California Medical Association, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, American Nurses Association of California, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, National Coalition for Cancer Research, Parkinson’s Action Network and more

Our supporters may disagree on other issues. But we all agree that adequate funding must be made available for all types of stem cell research. We believe that it time to get politics out of stem cell research decisions, so medical researchers can move ahead with efforts to develop stem cell cures for as many diseases as possible, as soon as possible. And, we believe that voter approval of Proposition 71 will achieve those goals.

How can I help Prop 71?

You can help by becoming a member of our campaign coalition and by making a donation to our campaign. You can also visit our online volunteer center to learn about other ways to help. And, in November, please remember to vote YES on this lifesaving ballot initiative. It could save the life of someone you love.

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