Stem Cell Optimists See Biotech Gold Rush

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The best and brightest minds in science are heading West to partake in a biotech gold rush.

Supporters of stem cell research (search) predict that the $3 billion in research funds approved by California voters on Election Day will create more biomedical jobs in the short term. But the big money will come with hoped-for cures for ailments like Parkinson's disease (search), Alzheimer's disease (search) and spinal cord injuries, which would spell millions of dollars in revenues.

Roman Reed, who has been paralyzed since a football accident a decade ago, is among the optimists.

"California is going to lead the way, so that one day everybody will be able to stand up from their wheelchairs and walk again," Reed says.

But critics warn that $3 billion is simultaneously too much and not enough. Though the amount will force California even deeper in debt, they argue, it will not go far enough to produce substantial revenues or new treatments.

"This is the wrong time to be putting this amount of money [toward] such a speculative field of research," says Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society (search).

"We have no protections in the language of the law that would ensure any money would come back to the people of California, that would ensure that any treatments that are successfully developed would be affordable to the people of California," Darnovsky says.

But Californians who've pinned their hopes on stem cell research believe their state is making a wise and benevolent investment.

"I will be cured, and the many millions of people like me will be cured because of California voters, who voted yes on Prop. 71," Reed asserts.

The 59-percent approval of the bond measure shows that millions of voters with no afflictions themselves believe the potential benefits of the research initiative is worth the cost. An oversight committee is being formed to decide who will get a piece of the $3 billion in funds, with the first checks expected to go out as soon as next summer.

Click on the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Claudia Cowan.