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This loan courtesy of stem-cell research

Stem cell cultures are placed under a microscope in a lab

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: California has set aside more than $3 billion for stem cell research. But a lot of that money is just sitting there, waiting to be used. So, why not loan out some of it to make more money?

Today, a state subcommittee will take up that idea, calling it a biotech bank. Janet Babin reports from our Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.


Janet Babin: You may think brilliant medical discoveries have no trouble getting funded. Nope. The ideas are usually risky. Venture capitalists can wait five years before investing.

Robert Klein with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine says that's when the state should step in. The proposal would loan out $750 million. Firms could pay the money back after investors jumped in.

Some of the loans would default, but Klein says that's OK, because:

Robert Klein: We will be getting interest from the other loans, and that interest income will offset the loss of capital on reasonable risks that didn't work.

But watchdog groups are wary.

John Simpson is with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights:

John Simpson: We're concerned that there be provisions to ensure affordable access to the research results to the people who are actually paying for it, the taxpayers of California.

Any loan recipient would have to be located in California.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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