In response to former President George W. Bush's funding limitations on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, California voters in 2004 passed Proposition 71, the most expansive state-funded medical research initiative in United States history. This study examines California's experiment in the life sciences, a particularly fitting analysis now as President Barack Obama has freed up additional federal funding for hESC research. In addition to exploring the general pitfalls of states, rather than the federal government, serving as principal players on hESC science and the perceived flaws in California's program, the analysis considers the strengths of state activism and of California's enterprise. On balance, given the Bush administration's policy on hESC research, the U.S. benefitted from state innovation. Moreover, even with the new federal regulatory policy on hESC research, California should be able to mesh its program with the federal initiative and remain a prime mover in this arena. The essay draws on informal interviews with key actors in California and on Capitol Hill in 2008 and 2009.
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