Economic Impact v.Morality
For that to happen, the alliance and its Congressional supporters will have to keep the bill from getting bogged down in the moral debate over hESC research. That’s easier said than done in today’s hyper-political Congress, with a presidential election just a year away. NIH’s ability to continue funding hESC research depends on the outcome of Sherley et al. v. Sebelius et al. In April the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth’s decision granting a preliminary injunction on all federal funding for hESC research.
To its credit, the alliance has a broad membership—74 members are listed on its website. They include big pharma mainstays, smaller stem cell companies, investment firms specializing in science start-ups, private research institutions, and publicly created agencies like the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). CIRM was created after California voters in 2004 approved Proposition 71, authorizing the state to sell $3 billion in general obligation bonds to fund stem cell work. State officials then spent more than three years in court, battling opponents seeking to scuttle the bond act.
Earlier this year, CIRM issued an economic impact report that sought to show just what return on investment California taxpayers will get for the $3 billion borrowed under Proposition 71. The agency said that the first $1.1 billion it spent generated $200 million in new tax revenue and 25,000 “job-years” through 2014. “Job-years” are aggregate numbers calculated by adding up each year’s number of jobs generated by a multiyear project. The tax gain exceeds the approximately $50 million in debt service that must be paid on the bonds, Art Torres, vice-chairman of CIRM’s governing board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Commission (ICOC), told GEN.
CIRM’s job and tax numbers were swelled by the construction of stem cell research facilities across California. The ICOC approved $271 million in grants to 12 institutions in 2008. The 12, in turn, committed an additional $560 million from charitable donations and their internal reserves. CIRM plans a follow-up study detailing how many jobs were created by each lab facility whose construction the agency helped fund, Torres said. At its June 23 meeting, ICOC unanimously voted to support HR 1862.
The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine foresees someday releasing a similar report showing the economic effects of regenerative medicine R&D nationwide. “There really is a need for better information about what’s going on in the field and its impact,” Werner said.