By Don C. Reed
The purpose of Proposition 14 is to renew funding for the California stem cell program, formally the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM.
There are at least 133 million reasons to support Proposition 14: the California Stem Cell Research, Treatments, and Cures Initiative of 2020 — that being the number of Americans with one or more chronic diseases or disabilities, roughly half the population of America. Chronic disease is what CIRM fights.
How could we NOT support anything that might help suffering people? Besides, cures are not geographically hogtied! New kinds of healing found in one state will spread to another, wherever there is need.
But there are more reasons to support Prop 14, like personal pride, for example. Sometimes Washington can look so corrupt and dishonest, I just want to close my eyes and sleep till the next election.
But you can study the California stem cell program hard as you want, and the closer you look the better it gets .
I am proud of CIRM (short for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine) CIRM itself. It is something shining, and helpful. It takes the medicine at whatever level it is, and raises it.
When those little children were diagnosed with bubble baby disease, a generally fatal condition, CIRM scientists like Donald Kohn saw a place to push, and lives were saved, with stem cells and gene therapy.
Measurable vision was restored to people who would otherwise have stayed blind.
And paralyzed young men and women recovered upper body motion and control.
I have probably attended more meetings of CIRM than anyone else, and they are a joy to behold. A little boring, sometimes, of course, but that’s all right; one time I nodded off and started to snore, and the board of directors woke me up with three cheers for the patient advocates! “Hip, hip, hurray!” “Huh, what?”
But think what they are actually doing, in those long meetings. They are trying to decide how a limited number of dollars can be stretched to attack many diseases.
CIRM is like nothing else. Granted, the National Institutes of Health has a larger budget, but they also (in my opinion) have more political constraints. I would classify them as ideologically driven, and conservative. President Obama eased the Bush-era restrictions, and it was a joy to watch him sign the bill authorizing that relaxation, but, to put it mildly, he is not there now.
CIRM does not ask what kind of stem cell is the most politically acceptable; but rather what will meet the patient’s unmet need.
Tomorrow is elections day, and if by chance you have not voted, please get to the polling place early as possible. Bring a folding chair, and a good book. And do not leave that line until you have voted.
If you live in California, please vote YES! on Proposition 14: the California Stem Cell Research, Treatments, and Cures Initiative of 2020.
This is the last piece I will write before the vote, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the man who made the California stem cell program possible.
Like the program he designed, Bob Klein is unique. He works hard to make money so he can do great things, mainly fund the campaigns for stem cell research. He is helped by excellent people, like Dagmar Dolby, widow of Ray Dolby, the sound-surround king. But Bob is the force of nature, who makes things happen.
His elder son Rob is plainly the heir apparent, and deservedly so. He has a mind which can grasp huge concepts, and he works — well, like his father does.
When (God willing, many years from now) Bob actually does retire, son Rob will make his own mark upon the world, and make it better.
But right now? There is no way to properly honor the man who basically built California stem cell research.
In England they would know what to do. As UK Scientist Peter Coffee said: “In England we would just knight Bob, he would be Sir Bob.”
If I had the power, I would nominate Bob for the Nobel Prize — certainly no one has done more to advance science than he.
My son Roman has been paralyzed for 25years. He goes through Hell in ways outsiders cannot imagine — how could they? But when cure comes, it will be because of research funded by visionaries, like Bob. If we pass Prop 14, there is a chance I will see my son walk again. But if not, we both still want the cures to come quickly, for others.
As my wife Gloria said, when she lay dying of cancer, “This stem cell stuff must be allowed to go forward — nobody should have to suffer like this.” And today CIRM scientist John R. Cashman is working to inhibit the advance of pancreatic cancer.
And when all those little children’s lives were saved — think of that, to give back maybe 70 years of life to someone just beginning — those children would not have been saved, if not for CIRM — if not for Bob.
Bob works on the principle that anybody’s pain should be everybody’s pain.
His legislation makes it possible for California to work together, to fight suffering, which can afflict us all.
His honor lies not in trophies or awards — but in deeds, in lives saved and suffering eased — and in the respect and affection of all who work beside him.
I know I speak for every patient advocate, when I lift my glass and say, God bless Bob Klein — and all the people of Proposition 14.
Don C. Reed is the author of three books about the California stem cell program, published by World Scientific Publishing, Inc.