While the world knows the $3 billion California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) sprang from the citizen's initiative, Proposition 71, few people know the struggle required, nor what happened after California said "Yes!"
World Scientific's latest book, Stem Cell Battles: Proposition 71 and Beyond How Ordinary People Can Fight Back against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease -- with a Posthumous Foreword by Christopher Reeve, authored by Fremont author Don C. Reed combines easy-to-understand science, in-the-trenches political warfare, and inspirational stories that capture the struggles that led to Proposition 71.
For Reed, the effort began much earlier, September 10th, 1994, when his son Roman became paralyzed in a college football accident. "Roman does not really understand the word 'quit'", says the elder Reed.
For 21 years, the father-son team has fought to increase research funding and protect scientific freedom. A California research funding law called the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999 (Dutra, D-Fremont) provided roughly $1 million a year for ten years. But when President George W. Bush put stringent restrictions on stem cell research, patient advocates like the Reeds really found their cause.
In 2003, Bay Area philanthropist Bob Klein led Proposition 71, to dedicate $3 billion in stem cell research funding. Gathering 550,000 signatures just to get the initiative on the ballot was challenging, says Reed.
"One old lady spat on my shoes," Reed remembers, "Misunderstanding was rampant--but the message got through. We got 1.1 million signatures, double what was required".
California voters strongly approved Prop 71. Now the real battles could begin: the step by step development of therapies to fight diabetes, blindness, cancer--and paralysis. Critics doubted even one therapy could advance to the FDA-reguired clinical trials.
"But today, twenty-nine conditions are in or near human trials," says the author, "and one of those is a paralysis therapy first funded by the law named after my son."
The book aims to give hope to individuals and families who suffer from chronic disease or disability; to point out how ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference in the battle to ease suffering and save lives through supporting medical research; to share in "people talk" some of the amazing progress already achieved in the new field of stem cell research; to show how even such a magnificent success as the California stem cell program is under constant attack from ideological groups; to offer medical research as a force for international cooperation; to suggest how cure research lessens the need for the mountainous costs of endless care.