California has invested billions of public dollars over the past decade into studying stem cells and it has finally received its first royalty check for its investment. The City of Hope medical research center sent over $190,000 to the State Treasurer’s Office, which was received in December, related to research funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). CIRM is tasked with issuing $2.75 billion in grants for stem cell studies and it hopes that there will be more payments for years to come. John Zaia, director of City of Hope’s Alpha Stem Cell Clinic, stated,
I think this illustrates that a state agency can actually fund research in the private community and get a return on its investment. It’s something that’s not done in general by other funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, and this is a proof of concept that it can work.
In 2004, voters passed Proposition 71, which gave the state the constitutional right to conduct stem cell research and led to the creation of CIRM. City of Hope’s Alpha Stem Cell Clinic has been backed with roughly $8 million in CIRM grants. Critics of the stem cell institute claim it’s still unclear whether California will reap the rewards it was promised, which at the time was predicted to be as much as $1.1 billion in royalties from the research. Under the stem cell institute’s complex licensing agreements, the state is entitled to a portion of profits generated from technology or inventions that come out of CIRM funded research. We will have to wait and see if other CIRM funded research produces enough of a profit to cut a royalty check to the State Treasurer’s Office.
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