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New Study Urges Caution in Anticipating Stem Cell Research Payoff

Written by on Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

A new study by Nature Biotechnology urges caution with respect to anticipating the payoff of California’s $3 billion dollar investment in stem cell research, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the study warned that "assessing the benefits of stem cell research is likely to be a complex undertaking."  Moreover, any treatments that come out of the research could prove to be only "marginally useful or too costly for many patients to afford."

On the other hand, the up-side of the research could be tremendous.  The San Jose Mercury News reported:

[E]ven if the institute makes just one treatment – say, for juvenile onset diabetes mellitus, which strikes about 13,000 children every year in the United States – the economic implications could be enormous, the study concluded.

Assuming the treatment halves that ailment’s impact by about 2030, the study estimated, health care expenditures among diabetes sufferers might be reduced by $319 million in today’s dollars, and the patients’ productivity boosted by $4.5 billion.

An even bigger benefit might result from the patients’ improved quality of life, the study said. Assuming that each year of a patient’s improved life would be worth $50,000 – a figure sometimes used to assess the value of new drugs – the authors calculated an additional benefit of $10 billion.

Did California make a good investment when it allocated so much money to stem cell research?  Certainly, it was a boost to the biotech industry, but was it a good use of limited state resources?  Only time will tell.  I think I speak for most Californians when I say that I am hoping for the big payoff.


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