Phil Matier: Controversial Use Of Funds In Stem Cell Research

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— While budget problems have forced many state departments to cut back California’s stem cell research, one agency recently agreed to pay its new leader one of the highest salaries in state government.

Investment banker Jonathon Thomas was elected chairmen of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine two weeks ago and is suggesting that part of the agency’s problem is public relations. They will hire a new PR director who could make more than $200,000 a year in order to rejuvenate their image.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier Comments:

In the meantime, the agency said it needs billions more in taxpayer money.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier said California voters approved about $3 billion in bonds for stem cell research, partly as a political statement against the Bush Administration, which was against embryonic research.

So far the institute has given out a little over $1 billion in grants, though not all have seen sweeping changes and some have been surrounded by controversy.

Matier said it was unfortunate that California hasn’t yet seen any results or medical breakthroughs as a result of the research and that it will now enter its second phase.

The insider said it’s the birth of a bureaucracy with the man on top in a comparable position to someone like a UC medical director who earns a similar salary.

“A medical breakthrough wouldn’t typically come from an investment like this until another 10 years,” Matier said.

He expects the institute to eventually ask the private sector for more money and if that doesn’t work, they’re likely to look to voters and ask for another bond.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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