June 15, 2007

Stem Cell Research - State Moving, Feds Not

David Jensen notes in California Stem Cell Reports that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the agency which manages the state’s stem cell research program, has just awarded over $50 million in laboratory and training grants for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. These grants are intended to support research on stem cell lines which fall outside current federal funding guidelines. BY CIRM’s arithmetic, this brings California’s total hESC funding awards to over $200 million, or more than five times the $37 million NIH is expected to spend on hESC research this fiscal year. The CIRM press release with the details can be found here.

CIRM’s been active on other fronts as well. As David Magnus reported last week, the California Supreme Court refused to accept an appeal of a lower court decision that upheld CIRM’s constitutional status, which appears to clear the way for the state to issue the $3 billion in general obligation bonds authorized by Proposition 71. CIRM’s even going international. As reported here, the state of California and the Canadian province of Ontario have just announced a joint stem cell research program to which Ontario will contribute $30 million over 5 years.

California’s far from the only state that’s been active on the stem cell front this year. New York has more or less firm plans to spend some $600 million on stem cell research, and gossip has it that Governor Eliot Spitzer may introduce a proposal for a bond issue to support this research on a larger scale. Maryland has just awarded some $20 million in stem cell research grants, and the state legislature has just approved an FY2008 budget that appropriates some $23 million in research support. Connecticut is spending some $10 million per year on stem cell research. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has just unveiled a major package of stem cell initiatives that would spend some $1.25 billion in state and private funds, outlined here.

Meanwhile, things are moving slowly, if you want to call it moving, inside the Beltway. Congress is expected to take final action shortly on a bill which would expand the number of stem cell lines eligible for federal funding support, but the President has announced he’ll veto it just like he did last year, and there don’t appear to be enough votes to override a veto. Nothing’s going to happen until this administration leaves office, and not much may happen even then. Focusing on the feds is gonna be pretty boring for the foreseeable future — somebody want to organize a paint-drying contest to provide a little excitement?

-Jim Fossett
Federalism and Bioethics Initiative

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