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US states going their own way on ES cell research

12 January 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 291

The acting governor of the state of New Jersey has said that he plans to spend $380 million on embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. Richard Codey told the state Assembly that New Jersey needs to stay in the forefront of the science in this politically sensitive field. Of the total amount, $150 million will be used to establish the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey, which was announced by his predecessor in May 2004.

In November, voters - in a similar measure to that which took place last November in California - will be asked to approve a bond issue of $230 million to help pay for the Institute's running and research costs. If approved, New Jersey would become the second biggest funder of stem cell research in the US, after California. President Bush has limited the availability of federal funds for ES cell research - federally-funded researchers can only work on ES cell lines created before 9 August 2001. California's vote to fund the research within the state allows researchers there to work on more recently created cell lines, ones that many scientists believe are more beneficial to research, having not been created using mouse 'feeder' cells. Now, says Codey, 'We have the potential to make New Jersey an international centre of stem cell excellence'.

Further support for ES cell research within the US came from the state of Massachusetts last week. At the opening of the state's 2005 legislative session, Robert Travaglini, the Senate President, called for the 'immediate passage of a comprehensive stem cell research bill', with support from other Democrats in the state. Massachusetts first announced its support for the research when the California funding vote was passed, one of the reasons being that it didn't want to lose its best scientists to California.

The Boston Globe reported that Travaglini was likely to propose a bill during this legislative session that went beyond 'mere approval' of ES cell research and provided active encouragement for companies and researchers to work in the state, such as tax incentives. 'This issue has languished too long', said Travaglini. 'In the eyes of many, we have lost ground in our competition with states such as California and New Jersey', he said, adding 'With swift action during this legislative session, we can regain a competitive edge in this area'.

The Scientist reports that the state of Connecticut may also back ES cell research this year. Last year, the state Senate passed - with a large majority - a bill allowing ES cell research, but this was later defeated by four votes in the House of Representatives. Republican Senator George Gunther, a sponsor of last year's bill, says he believes it can get through this year. If it does, state governor Jodi Rell has said that she will sign it into law. She has already pledged to use $10 to $20 million of the state's current budget surplus to promote ES cell research in Connecticut.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Codey to set up stem cell funding
Philadelphia Inquirer |  9 January 2005
Connecticut eyes stem cell law
The Scientist |  6 January 2005
New Jersey plans $380 Mln for stem cell research
Reuters |  11 January 2005
Stem cell bill tops agenda as Legislature convenes
The Boston Globe |  6 January 2005
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