Hurdle to stem cell funds cleared, the California Supreme Court gave final clearance Wednesday to California’s landmark $3-billion stem cell research effort, declining to hear an appeal of two lower court rulings upholding the constitutionality of 2004’s Proposition 71.

Experts agreed that the plaintiffs had exhausted legal challenges, at least as far as the funding is concerned.

The state is expected to issue the first of $3 billion in voter-approved bonds by July. The lawsuit did not prevent the state from issuing the bonds, but in practice the cloud it cast made a sale unfeasible until now.

Regenerative Medicine has not stood still for the last two years. Cobbling together a $150-million state loan arranged by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and $50 million in loans from California philanthropists, the institute has awarded $158 million in grants, making California the world’s leading funder of human embryonic stem cell research, experts say.

The bonds will provide up to $350 million a year for 10 years. By comparison, the U.S. government spends about $30 million a year on human embryonic stem cell research and restricts grants to just a handful of human embryonic stem cell lines.

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