November 10, 2004
La Jolla, CA – Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante today named Dr. Richard Murphy, chief executive officer of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, to the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee overseeing the implementation of Proposition 71.
The California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act, approved by voters on Nov. 2, created an Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The Institute will manage $3 billion in research grants and loans for embryonic stem cell research over the next decade. The 29-member Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee is the policy-setting body for the Institute and will oversee its operations.
Dr. Murphy fills the Lieutenant Governor’s appointment on the committee for a California non-profit academic and research facility that is nationally ranked, but not part of the University of California system.
“I have chosen Dr. Murphy with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies because it is one of the world’s foremost institutions conducting research dedicated to improving human health,” Bustamante said. “Dr. Murphy has conducted research programs in neurotrophins, proteins that promote the growth and survival of nerve cells. He began his medical career at the Harvard University Medical School. He left Harvard to chair the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Alberta then was Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University for eight years, prior to heading up the Salk Institute. California is extremely fortunate to have the expertise of Dr. Murphy and the Salk Institute as we embark on what could one day be seen as the most promising research effort in medical history.”
Dr. Murphy noted that “Californians have been visionary in making it possible for scientists to begin the long research journey that will lead to the use of stem cells in improving human health. I share their enthusiasm for this challenge, I am optimistic about the outcome, and I am delighted to be part of the process.”
Bustamante pointed out that medical researchers believe that human stem cells have the potential to provide breakthrough cures for diseases and injuries that affect millions of people. Those conditions include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, ALS, osteoporosis, HIV/AIDS and spinal cord injuries. Some scientists say stem cells could someday treat or cure about 70 diseases and conditions.
“All Californians have friends or family members who could benefit from research that produces progress in treating or curing devastating medical conditions,” Bustamante said.
Proposition 71 authorizes the use of $350 million in tax-free bonds yearly for the next decade to support stem cell research at California medical research institutions. It also prohibits any funding for cloning to create babies. Research is to be focused exclusively on finding medical cures.
The Act set a deadline of 40 days from the effective date of the initiative to appoint members of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee. Members are to be appointed by various constitutional officers and heads of University of California institutions. Bustamante will make five appointments. The committee is to meet within 45 days to choose its two top officers.
The Institute for Regenerative Medicine is authorized to employ up to 50 state workers to carry out the policies of the committee and process grant applications. It also will name working committees to write regulations governing research, evaluate grant and loan applications for research, and to evaluate applications for the funding of research facilities.
President Bush limited federal funding and imposed severe restrictions on embryonic stem cell research in 2001 – a move that many scientists say is hampering progress on critical research projects.
“We are losing ground on stem cell research,” Bustamante said. “The diseases for which we seek treatments will continue to impair and kill vast numbers of people as research programs struggle for lack of funding.”
“Proposition 71 provides other benefits as well,” Bustamante continued. “Research funded by the Act will make California a world leader in stem cell research and will ensure that California remains the leading biotechnology state. And It will create many new, well-paying jobs in research and development.”
“California also will be able to share in royalties resulting from the research, generating new state revenues for years to come. California currently has the highest total health-care spending in the nation, approximately $110 billion yearly. Large portions of those costs are attributable to diseases and injuries that could be treated with stem cell therapy,” Bustamante said.
He concluded: “Passage of this measure will energize vitally needed research, help develop treatments and cures for millions of children and adults, reduce the state’s burdensome health-care costs and boost California’s economy.”