A little more than a year ago, when California voters overwhelmingly endorsed an initiative to provide $3 billion in support of stem cell work, they immediately put the state on the road to becoming a future leader in the field. Even some Massachusetts companies started scouting the state for lab space. And California's public support for stem cell research made it an issue around the country. Other states like Wisconsin and New Jersey scrambled to put together smaller stem-cell programs of their own. But even though conservative groups have managed to block California's money so far in the courts (a trial is scheduled to start in late February) the state has retained the lead in this enormously promising field.

Despite efforts to keep public funds out of stem cell research, California remains at the forefront of this enormously promising field.

The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine isn't waiting for a verdict to get started. It's gathering more than $50 million from philanthropic groups and supportive individuals to fully set up this year so it can unloose a "torrent" of funding once the litigation is over. Eventually the institute will dole out some $300 million in support. Betting that the state will become a center for stem cell work once the institute turns on the monetary taps, Stanford University, the University of Southern California and the University of California-Los Angeles have set aside millions of dollars for new lab space and recruited top scientists from around the world. With South Korea's humiliating concession that one of its top scientists faked work on cloning embryonic stem cells, this is one race that is still in its first lap. Of course, California is building on one of the biggest life sciences bases in the world. Amgen and Genentech are just two of the biotech stars based in the state, and Stanford recently announced plans to develop a new biotech center of its own.

Astronomical housing prices aside, fame, money and success all help spread that glittery look to the state's biotech prospects.


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