CIRM was created after a ballot proposal was approved by California voters to spend $3 billion dollars over 10 years on embryonic stem cell research. The ballot proposal was sold as necessary to the citizens of California because the federal government was allegedly not spending enough money on embryonic stem cell research.
The $230 million in grants awarded Wednesday to California universities and companies represent a big step toward moving stem cells from basic research toward application in treating diseases like cancer and AIDS. Grant recipients are supposed to have a therapy ready for initial human testing in four years.
But only 4 of the 14 projects involve embryonic stem cells. The others will use so-called adult stem cells or conventional drugs intended to kill cancer stem cells, which are thought to give rise to tumors.
The grants thus represent a departure from the program’s original mission. California voters approved the 10-year, $3 billion effort in 2004 largely to get around restrictions on embryonic stem cell research imposed by the administration of President George W. Bush.
Such research is ethically controversial because creation of embryonic stem cells involves the destruction of human embryos.