Stem Cell Backers Eager For Additional Federal Funds

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, March 9, 2009

In 2001, President Bush limited taxpayer dollars from funding new embryonic stem cell research. Three years later, California voters approved $3 billion for stem cell research.  Now, with the chance for more funding from the federal government, the state could be in a unique position to benefit. 
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for California because we are actively doing research in this area and our scientist are primed to be applying for grants that will supplement this work in California.” 
That’s Marie Csete. She’s the chief scientific officer with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The Institute was created in 2005 to oversee and distribute the three billion dollars to universities and scientists. With additional federal funding, Csete believes there will be more opportunities for medical advances. She says that could result in new therapies - or a cure - for diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.   

“The therapies that will arise from this research can really help to expand biotechnology in this state.”

And she says the growth of biotechnology will create jobs. In order to meet the expected rise in demand, Csete says the Institute wants to help the California State University system train undergraduates to work in the stem cell industry.  

But, some groups consider an embryo a human life and are wary of its use for research. Carol Hogan is with the California Catholic Conference. She says President Obama’s move to overturn federal funding restrictions isn’t the end of the story.

“It’s disappointing, it is just a first step and it is more style than substance.”

She says that’s because of a little known fact - Congress still needs to weigh in. She says that involves another step, lawmakers now have to vote to end a more than decade-old provision banning research that involves destroying embryos. Hogan concedes that it’s likely Congress will vote to throw out the provision.