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US stem cell news

14 February 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 295

California Research and Cures Coalition (CRCC), the group that backed the 'yes' campaign on Proposition 71 in California, will work this year to fight a proposed federal ban on all forms of human cloning. Proposition 71, passed by 59 per cent of voters in November last year, will provide $3 billion in bonds over 10 years for stem cell research within the state. This allows California to progress with this promising research, despite a federal policy, put in place by President George Bush on 9 August 2001, which prevents federally-funded workers working on any embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines created after that date.

CRCC raised $35 million to help promote proposition 71, and intends to use 'its considerable fundraising prowess' to fight the proposed federal cloning ban. Republican Senator Sam Brownback has proposed legislation that would ban cloning for any reason, including for research purposes. And in his 'State of the Union' address last week, Bush pledged to support a 'culture of life' and said he would work with Congress to ensure embryos were not created solely for research. Both Brownback's and Bush's actions could 'threaten' what was achieved in California, says Robert Klein, former chair of the CRCC and now head of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC), the 29-member panel set up to decide how funds will be spent on stem cell research in the state.

Klein said that the ICOC will team up with a campaign coalition of non-profit and charitable organisations, based in Washington DC, to promote ES cell research. Larry Soler, spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, one of the groups in the coalition, predicted that the ES cell issue would be 'a major battle this year'.

Meanwhile, legislation that would ban cloning for research is being debated in the Senate of the US state of Missouri. Sponsored by Senator Matt Bartle, bill no.160 is also supported by the Missouri Catholic Conference and the Missouri Right To Life group. Scientists, patient groups and academics in the state have formed the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, to try and fight the bill.

In the state of Virginia, a bill (SB 1194) proposing the creation of a public-private account to fund ES cell research in the state has been 'weakened' by an amendment. The original bill, proposed by Senator Russell Potts, would have created a fund in honour of the late actor Christopher Reeve, a well-known supporter of the research. But the Senate approved an amendment, put forward by Senator Ken Cuccinelli, which would only allow the fund to provide money for stem cell research that did not involve embryos, by 23 votes to 17 last week. It is thought that the 'fatally' amended bill, now going to the House of Representatives, will face 'a hostile reception' there.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Calif. Panel Going After Anti-Cloning Bill
Yahoo Daily News |  10 February 2005
Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures Launched to Support Stem Cell Research
Kansas City infozine |  12 February 2005
Senate weakens measure to fund scientific study
Richmond Times Dispatch |  12 February 2005
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