A theme that emerged time and again at this year’s World Stem Cell Summit in Baltimore, Maryland, was the need for stable and reliable funding for the nascent and much-hyped science. Venture capital backers often expect returns after three to five years. Government-supported grants generally operate on a similar timescale. But stem cell research doesn’t offer such quick turnarounds.
That’s why Robert Klein, chair of the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), described his state’s far-reaching $3 billion investment as a “legacy commitment to the future.” He cited CIRM’s reliance on long-term bonds as an appropriate way to align taxpayer investment in research with expected therapeutic and financial payoffs, which remain years or decades away. Klein outlined a new prototype loan program under consideration in which the state stem cell agency would get a kickback if research funding led to profitable spin-offs. Otherwise, the money would serve as a normal scientific grant.
In other CIRM-related news, Klein also publicly decried a recent Nature story chronicling a number of stalled building projects owing to Golden State’s financial woes. “We think in this economy that to have 95% of our projects in construction is a good record,” he said. And hot on the heels of last week’s partnership with Germany, CIRM announced a bicoastal collaboration at the meeting with the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, which administers the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, to allow joint funding efforts.