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California stem cell center stirs debate

Nov. 22, 2010 at 6:58 PM

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- California's state-funded stem cell research center, facing criticism over salaries and lack of progress, is about to ask voters for more money, officials say.

Millionaire Silicon Valley real estate developer Bob Klein launched a ballot drive to create a $3 billion state fund for stem cell research in 2004, promising to take politics out of science and concentrate on cures, the Los Angeles Times reported.

During Klein's six-year term as chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the agency has funded research resulting in hundreds of scientific papers, but marketable cures for cancer, Alzheimer's and spinal cord damage promised as part of the ballot campaign remain years away, scientists say.

Now Klein intends to go to the voters to approve another $3 billion bond measure on the 2014 ballot to keep the stem cell program going, the Times reported.

Almost from the start the agency has faced criticism for paying its president more than double the California governor's salary, giving almost $1 billion to universities with representatives sitting on its board of directors and overselling the promise of stem cell cures.

Klein discounts the criticism and says there will be "plenty of evidence" to present to voters when they are asked to approve more money.

"I passionately believe there will be some remarkable new therapies that will save lives and mitigate suffering substantially," Klein told the Times.

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