14 February 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 595
The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), has opened a stem cell research facility paid for by private and state money approved by Californian voters. As no federal funds were used, researchers can avoid federal funding policy restrictions on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research.
The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building has cost US$123 million and will host a number of stem cell laboratories with scientists focusing on the therapeutic potential of hESC's for a wide range of disorders. Speaking at the opening, UCSF Chancellor Dr Susan Desmond-Hellmann, said: 'It is a great day for the field of stem cell research, and, most importantly, for the human race'.
Under the Bush administration, federal funding was restricted to the 21 hES cell lines already in existence. In March 2009 President Obama overturned the constraints put in place by his predecessor. This was heralded as an important step for biomedical research, seemingly putting an end to a decade of frustration.
In August 2010, US District Judge Royce Lamberth blocked Obama's executive order, claiming that the funding violates a 1996 law prohibiting the use of federal funds for any research which involves the destruction of human embryos. The judge has temporarily blocked all federal funding for hESC research, impacting grants worth approximately US$143 million.
Private, state and local funding has remained an option for hESC research throughout this saga. The new UCSF stem cell centre was funded in part by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), a US$3 billion state initiative approved by some seven million Californian voters in 2004. The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building is one of 12 similar projects currently backed by CIRM. Philanthropists Ray and Dagmar Dolby, as well as The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, also made significant contributions.
Professor Alan Trounson, president of CIRM, said: 'These buildings have galvanised an area that had an enormous amount of potential, but scientists were being careful about entering the field. Business is really taking off in California, whereas in other parts of the country, it's a struggle'.