What Lifting The Federal Ban on Stem Cell Research Means: Our Xconomists Offer Some Thoughts

3/10/09Follow @bvbigelow

[Updated at 2:30 pm with additional commentary. See details below]

After President Barack Obama signed a new executive order yesterday that clears the way to resume federal funding for stem cell research, we asked some local Xconomists and other biotech leaders for their reaction. The president’s order reversed eight years of federal funding restrictions imposed by President George W. Bush, who opposed embryonic stem cell research.

William Rastetter, co-founder and chairman, Apoptos

—The executive order will give U.S. researchers the same flexibility and latitude as other investigators outside of this country to research and develop stem cell therapies and cures for many life-threatening diseases. Certainly, given its potential, it must be ethical and correct to develop such therapies and cures with frozen embryos (from in vitro fertilization clinics) that otherwise would only be discarded. By not funding and doing embryonic stem cell research in this country we have only delayed the discovery of techniques for improving and extending human life.

Drew Senyei, managing director, Enterprise Partners Venture Capital

—This is the right track to separate science and the state, just like we have mostly with religion. We live in a pluralistic society and we have to honor all reasonable viewpoints while safe-guarding our humanity. Stem cells are just one manifestation of the state trying to control scientific discovery. We should let the data be our guide.

Duane Roth, CEO, San Diego Connect

—The President’s executive order on embryonic stem cell research is an important step in allowing research in this new and exciting technology to advance. The possibilities for this technology range from cures from some of the most devastating diseases to tissue regeneration to gene therapy. Advances in the field have exceeded my expectations, and the work done in California under the voter-approved Proposition 71 has placed California researchers at the very forefront globally. The Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine is about to begin construction on a new state of the art building to house our local experts in stem cell science from the Burnham, Salk, Scripps, and UC San Diego. They are poised to be leaders in advancing the technology and will be in a perfect position to leverage additional federal funding through the National Institutes of Health.

Joe Panetta, president and CEO, Biocom

—President Obama’s decision to overturn the ban on funding stem cell research is a milestone for our industry. We can now move forward at an important time when the President and Congress have also chosen to increase the NIH research budget by an additional $10 billion over the next two years. We now have an opportunity to steer a good portion of these dollars to research involving embryonic stem cells. This decision will make us more competitive with the rest of the world, it will encourage American scientists to remain in the United States to do their work, and encourage new scientists to enter the field. It will create new stem cell technologies in research institutes and universities, fueling the creation of new companies that will develop new stem cell therapies, and it will encourage companies that develop tools for such research to grow and expand. This decision by the President is a boost to our industry, especially after he recently mentioned his support for scientific innovation and entrepreneurship in his address to a joint session of Congress.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • b

    What a bunch of misinformation is presented here. There was never any impediment to US researchers doing stem cell research. The only restriction was that the federal government was not going to fund reseachers using new embryonic stem cells.

    Drew Senyei is so arrogant. “We live in a pluralistic society and we have to honor all reasonable viewpoints while safe-guarding our humanity.”

    Oh really Drew, so what about those people who have a different viewpoint than you? How does this honor those who disagree with you? How is not funding X a “manifestation of the state trying to control scientific discovery”? And Drew, how exactly does funding science largely through the apparatus of the state qualify as separating science and the state? What you are actually advocating is *more* state involvement with science, but are obvioulsy so unchallenged in your insular viewpoint that you don’t even see the contradiction in your thinking. Just as with climate change research, NASA, government funding of universities, etc. the state’s tentacles are all over science research in this country, and pretending that adding federal government funding to ESC research is *less* state control is idiotic.

    The quote from Duane Roth belies the wailing about how the US has fallen behind other countries in this area. The state government of California already funds ESC research, and its researchers are at the “forefront globally”. So where’s the crisis? How does that match up with “By not funding and doing embryonic stem cell research in this country…”?

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a biochemist and believe in stem cell research, but the propaganda and arrogance exhibited here infuriates me.

  • Kim

    I disagree, there was quite the impediment to US researchers doing stem cell research.

    Some scientists had to have two separate labs, or sets of equipment, one for the federally funded research and one for the one that wasn’t. The restrictions cut down on communication and cooperation, and made things very frustrating for scientists because you can’t silo out these two areas very easily.

  • http://cord-blood-bank.weebly.com/ Pro stem cell research

    I agree with b: “The state government of California already funds ESC research, and its researchers are at the “forefront globally”. So where’s the crisis? How does that match up with “By not funding and doing embryonic stem cell research in this country…”?

    The U.S is one of the leaders in this field. Please don’t talk without real knowledge of the matter.

    I also agree with kim: “The restrictions cut down on communication and cooperation, and made things very frustrating for scientists because you can’t silo out these two areas very easily”.

    To work effectively in this area, you need some funding, $$$$$$$$ :)