Will California renew its bet on stem cells? Agency touts economic impact as its seeks funding

A California agency tasked with funding stem cell research has supported tens of thousands of jobs and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue, according to a report released Wednesday.

That report, from the Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, found that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has generated more than $641 million in state and local revenue as well as more than $726 million in federal tax revenue.

California voters created the agency in 2004 when they approved an initiative setting aside $3 billion “to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs.”

The report comes as the agency prepares to go to voters in 2020 to ask for $5.5 billion to extend its work and fund new research.

The original initiative “promised not only to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens of the state but also to help promote economic growth in California by attracting scientific talent, additional funding, and commercial enterprises as the research and development process progressed,” according to the report.

When the agency was in its infancy, supporters said it would generate $1.1 billion for state coffers. In early 2018, the agency generated a single royalty check for $190,345.87.

The stem call agency has given more than $2.67 billion in grants “to fund physical and institutional infrastructure, basic research, education and training, research translation, research application, and clinical trials,” according to a statement from the agency.

“CIRM has led to California stem cell research and development activities becoming a leader among the states. In terms of economic impacts, the state’s investment in CIRM has paid handsome dividends in terms of output, income, employment, and tax revenues for California,” the report said.

The survey estimates that the stem cell agency has generated $10.7 billion in sales revenue and more than 56,000 full-time-equivalent jobs, “half of which offer salaries considerably higher than the state average,” according to the report.

“CIRM’s mission on behalf of patients has been the priority from day one, but this report shows that CIRM funding brings additional benefits to the state,” said Maria Millan, CIRM president. “This report reflects how CIRM is promoting economic growth in California by attracting scientific talent and additional capital, and by creating an environment that supports the development of businesses and commercial enterprises in the state”

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.