Stem cell issue heats up
Mon March 30, 2009 11:33 pm

Prompted by the Senate Finance committee’s rider banning the use of state funds for embryonic stem cell research, 18 prominent Texas scientists have signed a letter addressed to all Texas lawmakers urging them to “remove the ban on funding for embryonic stem cell research in Texas from SB1, and to watch diligently for other bills, riders or amendments that would prohibit or penalize any ethical form of stem cell research or the funding for it.”

Among the reasons the scientists believe such a ban “would be detrimental to Texas:”

“A ban on state funding for an area of biomedical research would halt ongoing research projects and negatively impact the ability of the Texas academic health institutions, both public and private, to competitively recruit and retain world-class scientists, professors, and medical students in the biological sciences.”

“Legislation that restricts biomedial research sends the message to industry that Texas is unfriendly towards the biomedical industry and new business.”

“A ban can potentially affect Texas’ institutions’ research activities including federal grant funding. Early-stage biomedical research is generally funded by the government and performed in public academic health institutions. Research currently being conducted with federal funding on approved embryonic stem cell lines in state facilities or utilizing researchers paid on state salaries will no longer be allowed.”

“Research on embryonic stem cells helps in the development and understanding of adult stem cell therapies, cell creation, function and development.”

“Research on life-threatening diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and diabetes depend largely on the biological understanding of how cells function and where malignancies or mutations occur, and why. A ban would deny access to treatment of millions of Texans suffering from debilitating diseases and conditions, eliminating early-stage trials and treatments.”

Here are the signators and their identifying affiliations:

Dr. Betty Sue Masters, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Dr. Yi Li, Baylor College of Medicine; Rick Wetsel, stem cell scientist; Dr. Ralph Dittman, president of the Alliance for Medical Research; Robert Curl, Nobel Prize Chemistry 1996; Dr. Ping Wu, stem cell scientist; Dr. Thomas Zwaka, Baylor  College of Medicine; Neal Lane, former science adviser to President Clinton; Dr. William R. Brinkley, Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Margaret A. Goodell, Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Malcolm K. Brenner, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy; Dr. Ferid Murad, Nobel Laureate Medicine; Dr. Joseph L. Goldstein, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Gretchen Darlington, Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Rebecca M. Hall, Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Karen K. Hirschi, Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Xin-Hua Feng, Baylor College of Medicine; and Dr. Irma Gigli, Professor emeritus U.C. San Diego and physician-scientist Houston.

Ogden was quoted by the Dallas Morning News saying he was not aware of any “state-paid” research currently underway that would be affected by his rider. However, the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston on March 6 issued a press release about the advances made by its scientists in research on human embryonic stem cells approved by the National Institutes of Health.

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