We are advocates for stem cell research. Our mission at Americans for Cures is to advocate for stem cell research and therapy development, entirely with the aim to improve the lives of patients and their families suffering chronic disease and injury.
Stem cell research has the potential to exceed even medical leaps such as the vaccine for polio, the greatest advancement in science and medicine since the discovery of antibiotics.
In 2004, seven million Californians voted to pass Proposition 71, authorizing a $3 billion investment in stem cell research, propelling California to the forefront of scientific discovery and launching a revolution in medicine. What began with only a vision—a dream—that is now a reality, with 35 different FDA-approved human cell-based clinical trial efforts underway, in various states of progress, supported by Proposition 71 funding.
Patients enrolled in these clinical trials are already benefiting from stem cell therapies—in some cases, lives have been saved. These are trials for devastating diseases and injuries such as Type 1 diabetes, age-related macular degeneration—which afflicts one in four Americans over 65—heart failure, paralysis, cancer, HIV/AIDS and dozens of others. These early trials represent the final bridge to bringing therapies and cures to patients. These initial results must be refined and tested further, but they represent critical milestones of progress in a revolutionary era of medical research.
In the past decade, however, media coverage of science, particularly stem cell research, has become sensational and often inaccurate, with many traditional newsrooms making dramatic cuts to their capacity for science journalism. This has created a vacuum of reliable, high-quality information about stem cell research, a highly complicated, ever-changing subject. Exacerbating matters, this journalistic gap has been filled subsequently with misinformation and rhetoric largely voiced by the ideological far right.
It can be difficult to find accurate news coverage. Further frustrating is the fact that people searching the web are likely to be routed to illegitimate companies marketing unproven stem cell “treatments,” often at exorbitant prices.
At a time when support for public research is in decline and trust in media is low, Americans for Cures aims to engage and alert the American public to the critical medical and scientific progress that Proposition 71 funding has catalyzed. We translate difficult-to-understand science into clear-cut, jargon-free, easily-digestible information, to be shared across a wide range of audiences. We gather news resources and content from our trusted research partners: renowned academic and medical centers of excellence. We also share with our readership outstanding patient advocate stories, and the latest policy developments in stem cell research.
We reveal the extraordinary advances in stem cell and biomedical research, while speaking to the many challenges ahead of us. We are your go-to resource for trusted, up-to-date information about all things stem cell-related.
Americans for Cures is the non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)3 organization legacy and/or successor organization to Californians for Stem Cell Research and Cures, the 501(c)4 organization behind 2004’s Proposition 71: the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.
With its passage, Proposition 71 authorized $3 billion in funding for stem cell research and therapy development in California, and created the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the State public funding corporation responsible for allocating these funds. Americans for Cures was formed on November 3rd, 2004—the day after the Proposition 71 election—so that support during the organizational period of the new stem cell funding agency, CIRM, and continuing support for the mission, could be funded with tax-exempt donations to a 501(c)3 organization.
Americans for Cures subsequently played a leadership role in assembling the amicus briefs that supported the case of the stem cell funding agency, CIRM, when ideologically extreme opposition incorporated a new non-profit in California and sued on constitutional and statutory grounds to invalidate the agency. Munger, Tolles and Olson contributed their legal services in leading the amicus for USC, Stanford, Salk, City of Hope, and a number of patient advocacy organizations. The strength of the amicus brief provided a depth of insight to the judicial system that helped with the accelerated trial schedule and the verdict at the Superior Court, Court of Appeals and California Supreme Court, in favor of the agency, on every one of 50 or more different causes of action.
Throughout this period, and particularly now, Americans for Cures has a vital role in communicating back to the public that their visionary investment of $6 billion has numerous milestones of success, and has surpassed many of the initial projections on levels of therapeutic progress that were possible in the first ten years. To accomplish this objective, Americans for Cures is leading a “Report Back to the Public” communication program to inform and engage the 7 million California citizens, civil society leaders and leadership organizations who endorsed and/or voted in support of Proposition 71, including the 70+ patient advocacy organizations, the 30+ Nobel Laureates, 150+ elected officials, the 30+ Chambers of Commerce and business and labor groups, of the remarkable progress in stem cell research.
If Americans for Cures is successful in communicating what has been achieved, to benefit the human condition and scientific knowledge, and delivers the vision of what can be achieved through these collaborative research networks’ unprecedented potential, the public will celebrate these successes and continue to support this critical research. Treatments and/or cures for chronic disease and injury are within our grasp, if we can sustain the advances of the scientists dedicated to stem cell therapies.
It is critical that the public is aware of the remarkable progress in the field of stem cell research since the passage of Proposition 71: the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act.
To achieve this goal, Americans for Cures is leading a “Report Back to the Public” communications effort to inform and engage the 7 million California citizens (59%) who voted in support of Proposition 71 of this progress. We have used different delivery mechanisms to reach the public through an online blog and social media, paid and earned media, patient advocate group networks, and opinion leaders.
Recruited a World-Class Scientific Advisory Board
To date, we have expanded the Americans for Cures Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to include 25 of California’s leading scientists and physician-scientists. Fundamental to this expansion has been our work formalizing our relationships with California’s Centers of Excellence. These relationships have been sustained and deepened on the strength of regular in-person visits to Institutes, and consistent communication with all 22 California Stem Cell Research Institutes and Centers of Excellence. To ensure rigorous scientific accuracy of our public-facing materials, we have established a scalable, efficient protocol for vetting all scientific content with the SAB.
Recorded Milestones of Progress
We have the single, most up-to-date matrix detailing the 30 human clinical trials funded by Proposition 71 and CIRM. This list includes trials for Type 1 Diabetes, Breast Cancer, Sickle Cell Disease, Spinal Cord Injury, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (vision loss), HIV/AIDS, Heart Failure and many more. Monitoring and updating this matrix requires regular check-ins on progress with trials’ primary investigators at a level of detail and consistency that has previously been unmatched. Moreover, behind these 31 human clinical trials, there have been nearly 2,000 peer-reviewed, published discoveries from CIRM-funded research. These findings will support a broad pipeline of therapeutic candidates for subsequent rounds of human trials.
Launched Americans for Cures Ambassador Training Program
At its peak, the Proposition 71 coalition boasted the support of 100 patient advocacy groups and hundreds of scientific and civic leaders. To re-engage this coalition, we have identified our top patient advocate supporters to become Americans for Cures Ambassadors and have trained them on public narrative, public speaking, organizing, and mobilizing their disease advocacy communities.
“Proposition 71 freed us up from having to find money to look for our loved ones’ care, and instead allowed [sickle cell advocates] to be able to look out for and protect our community. Prop 71 and CIRM brought us back to our humanity.” – Adrienne Shapiro, Americans for Cures Ambassador, Sickle Cell Disease Advocate
The Americans for Cures Ambassador Training Program empowers patient advocates and equips them with the tools they need to conduct outreach in their communities, thus building our capacity to spread our message. Our ultimate goal is to build a network of Ambassadors from across California that are dedicated to helping us share the incredible impact stem cell research has had on their lives and in their communities. The trainings are also an excellent opportunity for networking between our advocates, who in many cases do not know each other, or have had limited interactions with each other. There are five main modules to the Ambassador Training: 1) Post-Prop 71 progress; 2) Developing a Public Narrative; 3) Building a Leadership Team; 4) Community Mapping and 5) Public speaking.
“Americans for Cures is the strongest defense I have in my hope for a treatment for Huntington’s disease.” – Frances Saldaña, Americans for Cures Ambassador; President, HD-CARE
Feedback from the trainings has been overwhelmingly positive; the wide range of backgrounds experiences and diseases represented has made each session a unique and moving experience for both trainers and participants. Ambassadors have already stepped up their engagement and are talking to their friends, families and other advocates, who have produced a number potential leads for future training sessions. Furthermore, a number of advocates with excellent leadership qualities have emerged, from compelling public speakers to skilled organizers; these leaders will no doubt be a critical part of our outreach efforts moving forward.
“California’s Prop. 71, the California Institute of Medicine means hope. The greatest stem cell program in America gives hope to all of us who yearn for cure.” – Roman Reed, President & Founder, Roman Reed Foundation
To date, we have had 14 patient advocates participate in and commit to our Ambassador training program, representing a range of diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes, Sickle Cell Disease, Spinal Cord Injury, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Heart Disease.
60,000+ Online Supporters
Using the latest online engagement tactics, we have recently re-launched our social media and website presence and have been aggressively appealing to supporters to join our community. In just the past few weeks, we used a mixture of organic engagement and paid advertising to build a user base now numbering more than 60,000 supporters on our social media channels) that we can then engage with regularly and covert their online interest to offline advocacy. Going forward, we are going to begin a Page Post Engagement effort on our social media streams that push targeted content (such as disease-specific Whiteboard videos, news articles of Milestones of Progress, infographics, et cetera) to “activate” supporters and mobilize them.
“Through Americans for Cures, I have a chance to fight the thing that hurts my son.” – Don Reed, Americans for Cures Ambassador; Author, STEM CELL BATTLES; Co-Sponsor, Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act
Identified Key Moments in 2016
Working with patient advocates, scientists and civic leaders, we have developed a comprehensive calendar of key “moments” in 2016: conferences, public-facing advocacy events and more. We are continuing to solicit input from patient advocates and other members of our community of supporters to build out this shared calendar.
Scientific Education: Communicating to the Public
One of the chief objectives of the Report Back to the Public is to translate difficult-to-understand science into easily-digestible information. We have been working to create and distribute disease-specific content to effectively engage and empower patient advocacy groups and the public.
Through a partnership with Youreka Science, we have developed a series of digital “Whiteboard” videos to explain to non-scientists the progress being made in some of the most promising human stem cell clinical trials. that highlight advancements in stem cell research by disease. These Whiteboard videos highlight some of the most promising scientific breakthroughs in the areas of Type 1 Diabetes, Breast Cancer, Age-related Macular Degeneration (blindness), Sickle Cell Disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa and HIV/AIDs. Intend to produce 24-36 Whiteboard videos in 2016.
“Having given hundreds of talks that shares scientific knowledge to varied audiences, the Whiteboard is by far and away the best tool that I have seen. I know that people will learn, retain and be able articulate to others the information presented. It is also ideally suited for propagation via multiple social media paths, further expanding its utility by reaching more people with a consistent message in the most rapid way. In turn, these communications will be a boon to science and medicine… This awareness can then result in a better basis of knowledge when deciding if, how and when to support the next wave of advances.” – Mark Fischer-Colbrie, JDRF International Board Member
“I think people want to support science, advance medicine and have hope that they can be healthy as long as possible. Importantly, research in regenerative medicine is now moving faster than ever, with treatments and cures for many debilitating chronic diseases on the horizon. It is critical that the public understand the promise of current research and the Americans for Cures Whiteboard videos make the case beautifully.” – Brian Kennedy, President/CEO, Buck Institute; Member, Americans for Cures Scientific Advisory Board
Star Cluster Collaborative Stem Cell Research Maps
Institutionally, California’s stem cell institutes, stem cell centers of excellence, and stem cell specialty research centers, have each created extraordinary networks of resources which, in the aggregate, form a phenomenal and collaborative resource base stretching throughout the state. We have created a series of institution-specific, region-specific, and statewide “Star Cluster” pictographs to represent and map the strengths and collaborative relationships within each region, both before and after Prop 71. These Star Cluster diagrams are a valuable tool for illustrating the connections, collaboration, and resources of each institute’s stem cell research, pre-clinical capacity, clinical trial capacity, and international collaboration leverage.
Each of these institutes have created a Star Cluster of world-class talent that represent an entire ecosystem for driving progress from basic science to clinical trials to biotech delivery to patients through statewide and international collaboration. Thus far, we have completed maps for the San Diego region, UCLA, USC, Gladstone, UC Davis, UCSF, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and Cedars-Sinai; we are finalizing diagrams for the remaining Institute Star Cluster maps.
Robert Klein authored and Chaired the campaign for California’s Proposition 71, the $6 billion “California Stem Cell Research and Cures” Citizens’ Initiative.
For the first seven years of its existence, Mr. Klein served as the Chairman of the Governing Board of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state funding entity established by Proposition 71 to manage the peer review, standards, and grant process for the $3 billion in stem cell research funding authorized by the proposed Initiative. He was elected Chairman Emeritus of CIRM in 2011.
Mary Bass is the Executive Director of Americans for Cures, the stem cell research advocacy non-profit created by California’s Proposition 71, the 2004 ballot initiative that authorized $3 billion in funding for stem cell research and therapy development. Ms. Bass leads a multidisciplinary team of leaders in scientific communications, digital strategy, grassroots and patient advocacy outreach, media strategy, health care economics, and public policy activities.
Ms. Bass directs Americans for Cures’ statewide Report Back to the Public scientific communications program, the purpose of which is to alert the public to the breakthroughs in stem cell research and therapy development since the passage of Proposition 71. This Report Back to the Public addresses the critical problems caused by dramatic cutbacks in scientific journalism by translating complex stem cell science and breakthroughs into clear, easily digestible formats. Through this program, Americans for Cures communicates high-quality, scientifically accurate, trustworthy coverage of advances in stem cell research.
Ms. Bass serves on the Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee of the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a Bachelor of Art degree in Public Policy, with a concentration in Health Policy and Biomedical Ethics, from Stanford University.
Don Reed has been an advocate for the advancement of stem cell and medical research for decades, beginning with his citizen sponsorship of California’s Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act of 1999, named after his son Roman, who was paralyzed in a football accident. “Roman’s Law” raised $17 million in California State funding, attracting an additional $85 million from the National Institutes of Health and other sources. Don was a grassroots organizer for America’s first pro- stem cell research legislation, Senate Bill 253 (Ortiz) and others.
Mr. Reed was an integral member of the Proposition 71 campaign, serving on its Board of Directors. He is a Founding Board Member of the Americans for Cures Foundation.
Reed’s latest book, STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond, was published by World Scientific Publishing, a leading international academic publisher of 46 volumes of Nobel Prize lectures in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economics. A prolific writer, Reed has published more than 200 articles in the Huffington Post.
With his strong background, knowledge, and passion for advocacy and assisting marginalized communities, Yimy Villa brings a unique perspective to Americans for Cures. Mr. Villa’s career trajectory was in part forged as a result of 2004’s Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act, and the state funding program it created, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).
Mr. Villa assists in event planning and coordination. He is responsible for organizing logistical factors, as well a variety of administrative areas. Utilizing his unique background, he provides suggestions and feedback into projects related to Americans for Cures’ Report Back on Prop 71 Progress, a statewide scientific communications program to engage and inform the public of stem cell research breakthroughs.
Mr. Villa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine. Additionally, he is in the process of completing a Master of Science degree in Cell and Molecular Biology, with an emphasis in Stem Cell Research, from San Francisco State University; one of CIRM’s many Bridges to Stem Cell Research programs located all across California.
Dr. Mitra Hooshmand is the Director of Scientific Programs for Americans for Cures. She reviews all educational content disseminated to the public to ensure scientific accuracy. She also serves as the liaison between the scientific community and the public. Development, coordination, and organization of all scientific programming is under her direction.
Dr. Hooshmand received her PhD from the University of California, Irvine in a multidisciplinary field spanning Stem Cell Biology, Immunology, and Neurobiology. Her research elucidated how the environment after spinal cord injuries can affect the therapeutic potential of stem cells. Her work has resulted in over 15 peer-reviewed publications and the initiation of two clinical trials. She is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Lloyd Guth and Carl Cotman Junior Investigator Awards. She has also been an educator for over five years, teaching upper division stem cell biology courses at the University of California, Los Angeles, and California State University, Fullerton.
Dr. Hooshmand is also the founder of Mixx Yoga, a studio in Newport Beach, California that teaches her unique style combining yoga+cardio+plyometrics.
With his background in community organizing and designing education initiatives in underserved areas, Brett Lake developed a passion for advocacy and mission-driven work.
Mr. Lake creates and develops digital content for Americans for Cures Patient Advocate Ambassador Program. Through photography and videography, Mr. Lake tells the stories of patients and families, while documenting Americans for Cures’ advocacy and science-related activities.
A graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Lake holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies with a minor in Film Studies.
Lowry Bass is a Policy Fellow at Americans for Cures, and works alongside the patient ambassador program, which provides the tools and resources necessary to individuals looking to promote stem cell research within their respective communities. She has worked to merge her passion for writing and narrative journalism with her interest in policy and advocacy, and was drawn to Americans for Cures’ dedication to translating and sharing the importance of stem cell research and its role in individuals' lives to a broader audience.
She has published stories and photojournalism assignments which have explored the social implications of environmental issues, including assignments for Big Sky Journal, Shambhala Sun, as well as in McSweeneys Press Publication In My Home There Is No More Sorrow. She also serves on the editorial board of The Whitefish Review, and studied Environmental Nonfiction at Middlebury College.
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The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Buck Institute for Research on Aging
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Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
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