States, scientists seek alternate funding for stem cell research
■ Despite criticism over federal policy, NIH says, "There's no limit to the amount of money we're willing to spend."
By Andis Robeznieks — Posted March 15, 2004
Scientists, activists and politicians are working to get around President Bush's policy that restricts federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research to experiments on stem cell lines created before Aug. 9, 2001.
The biggest of these efforts is the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, an effort seeking voter approval of a plan to borrow $3 billion to annually fund $295 million worth of stem cell research in the state for 10 years.
Last year, California became the first state to specifically allow embryonic stem cell research, and New Jersey became the second this year. But neither state's Legislature allocated funding for conducting such research.
"It would make us the first state in the country that puts a financial commitment behind the research," said Assemblyman Neil Cohen, who sponsored the original New Jersey bill.
Other bills pending
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that bills to permit embryonic stem cell research have been introduced in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington.
"This is going to be the method of treatment for so many conditions if everything goes as we think it may," Cohen said.
Physicians hope to use stem cells some day to replace diseased or damaged tissues in treating Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries and other conditions.
He said the NIH awarded $10.6 million in research and infrastructure grants in fiscal year 2002, an estimated $17 million in 2003, and has about $60 million tied up in current and future funding commitments.