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California stem-cell program clears legal hurdle

May 17, 2007 By Rex Dalton This article courtesy of Nature News.

Supreme Court refuses appeal to block human stem-cell research.

California's human stem-cell programme is now free of legal challenges, clearing the way for $3 billion in funding to flow towards researchers.

The California Supreme Court on 16 May refused to consider an appeal from a group of anti-abortion and tax-reduction advocates, who had sued to block a programme for stem-cell research approved by state voters in 2004. The decision, following on earlier lower-state court rulings also rejecting the group, is final.

"This is a great victory," says Robert Klein, board chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state agency that evolved from the initiative. "Our $3 billion is free from restrictions from the extreme ideological right-wing."

Dana Cody, a Sacramento attorney representing the challenging groups, says, "We are at the end of the line. We are disappointed." The groups included the California Family Bioethics Council and the National Tax Limitation Foundation.

Our $3 billion is free from restrictions from the extreme ideological right-wing.
Robert Klein, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Next month, California will begin to issue a series of bonds to fund new research projects and lab facilities where all forms of stem-cell research can be conducted. State funding is a boon to researchers in California: US federal law severely restricts how money from the National Institutes of Health can be used for stem-cell research.

By the end of the year, CIRM officials estimated possibly as many as $300 million in bonds will have been issued for research costs.

Already, California officials say CIRM this year became the largest single funder of stem-cell research in the world, pumping nearly $160 million into such projects.

CIRM was able to marshal this money during the more than two years of legal challenges by a variety of stop-gap measures, including a $150-million loan from the state.

The California initiative to fund a decade of stem-cell research was overwhelming approved by voters three years ago. Observers say this began a US funding revolution, with other states proposing similar programmes, although these have not been as large as California's.

Since the approval, companies have opened California-based offices, and universities in the state have recruited top stem-cell researchers and trained young scientists in new techniques for working with human embryonic cells.


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