Vote NO on Proposition 71

Prop 71 funds research of dubious scientific merit

The California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative specifically funds research using human embryos, which is currently banned from federal funding because of ethical and moral issues. Despite the federal ban, much research has already been done using embryonic cells from mice and humans. The promise of the research has yet to be demonstrated. Pluripotent embryonic cells can, and do, differentiate to form various kinds of cells. The problem is that they are not very controllable at present. When injected into mice, they form teratomas (tumors) spontaneously. In order to useful in therapies, the cells must be differentiated into the cell types that are useful for therapies. So far, the conditions that result in the complete transformation of pluripotent stem cells into differentiated tissue have not been discovered. It is possible that residual pluripotent cells will exist in all preparations, posing the risk of tumors or cancers to those who have been treated with these therapies. At present, the risks are unknown, since no clinical trials using human embryonic stem cells have ever been evaluated.

An important question to consider is why advocates are going to an uninformed electorate to fund their research? If the research had potentials to cure diseases, why not go to biotech and pharmaceutical companies? The reason is that these companies do not want to take the risks associated with the use of embryonic cells in real patients. The downside is too great and the probability of success is small. If these therapies were going to work, the major biotech and pharmaceutical companies would already be investing millions to get a jump on the big profits that could be generated. The scientific prognosis doesn't warrant the risk.

A recent article in Forbes summarized the financial risks to Biotech companies and venture capitalists:

"Many scientists now acknowledge that even if "therapeutic cloning" can be perfected--a huge 'if,' despite the South Korean success--it would probably be too impractical and expensive to ever become widely available...Indeed, the potentially high cost of, and intense controversy over, therapeutic cloning have made venture capitalists reluctant to invest in human cloning biotech."1


  1. Smith, Wesley, J. "On My Mind: Watch out. You may soon be paying for cloning research that the private sector won't." Forbes, March 2, 2004.