Proposition 14 would give families a sense of hope and relief

San Francisco Chronicle
By Diane Winokur
October 26, 2020

As a mother who lost two sons to ALS, I know all too well how fatal chronic diseases and conditions like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS drain the emotional, financial and physical well-being of a family. Watching your children suffer and lose their lives to a chronic disease is a heartbreak that no parent should have to endure. Yet, even as the rate of chronic disease continues to rise, I also believe we have a reason to remain hopeful — hopeful that we can achieve new treatments and cures to alleviate suffering and save lives if we continue to advance the most promising medical research.

The advancement of stem cell research with all its continuing promise is on the California ballot. Proposition 14 will continue funding for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state’s stem cell research and therapy funding institute, to advance promising stem cell research, treatments and cures for chronic diseases and conditions that impact millions of Californians.

As an institute board member, I’ve seen firsthand how promising medical research and clinical trials are providing renewed hope to California patients who need it most. In such a short period of time, institute funding has already advanced more than 90 clinical trials, two FDA-approved cancer treatments, and 9 new treatments that have been designated as breakthrough therapies and have been fast-tracked for FDA approval. These breakthrough therapies will help patients with cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, blindness, spinal cord injuries and immunodeficiencies. While most of the 90-plus clinical trials are still underway, many lives have already been saved or improved. We’ve saved the lives of babies born without immune systems and cancer patients who had exhausted all other treatment options. We’ve also helped patients with Type I Diabetes start to produce their own insulin, blind patients start to regain their eyesight and quadriplegics start to regain upper body function.

All of these advancements were made possible by California voters who believed in a vision of making the Golden State the global hub of stem cell research that it is today. For less than $5 per capita per year — less than the price of a bottle of aspirin or an expensive cup of coffee — we can continue our mission to save lives and alleviate suffering by passing Proposition 14 at an exciting time when we’re so close to so many promising cures and treatments that could save the life of someone you love.

If Californians do not continue what we started, these discoveries could be left on the shelf, delaying lifesaving and life-changing treatments for decades. The reality is California is the only state with the infrastructure and intellectual capital to continue this charge of advancing promising medical discoveries and clinical trials through to widely available, FDA-approved treatments. There is no other entity — private or public — that can take it from here and to the scale that we as a state can. We’ve seen time and time again where the federal government has been inconsistent when it comes to funding breakthrough stem cell research.

Furthermore, as California recovers from COVID-19, Proposition 14 will provide an economic stimulus — it will generate additional tax revenue and more than 100,000 jobs, and it won’t cost the state anything until 2026.

No parent should ever endure a sense of helplessness when seeing their child suffer from a chronic disease or illness. I hope you join me and the coalition of more than 90 patient advocate organizations, hundreds of leading scientists and physicians, Nobel Prize winners, Gov. Gavin Newsom and dozens of our elected leaders, and the University of California by voting yes on Proposition 14.

Diane Winokur is a board member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.