Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey

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New Jersey can be a stem-cell research leader

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By Dr. Wise Young for the Courier-Post
Sunday, April 2, 2006

The New Jersey state Senate passed, and the Assembly is now considering, a $250 million bond that will be backed by cigarette taxes, $150 million of which is for building a state-of-the-art Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick. Another $50 million will be allocated to a
medical science building in Camden. And $50 million more would be for a building at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

The SCINJ will do all stem-cell research, including umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and embryonic stem-cell research.

The Legislature is considering a bond referendum for the November ballot to provide $230 million for stem-cell research.

In 2001, President Bush restricted federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research to embryonic cell lines created before 2001.

President Bush thought 68 embryonic stem cell lines were available but only 22 were actually embryonic stem cell lines and most were not available for research. To make matters worse, Bush not only did not increase the budget for stem cell research, but has threatened to veto
bills passed in Congress to fund such research.

The United States has fallen behind and lost its leadership role in stem-cell research, widely considered by scientists to be the most promising area of biomedical research. Countries such as the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and even Australia are investing more into stem-cell research than the United States.
Staying ahead

New Jersey was the first state to invest in stem-cell research. Although California has passed a $3 billion bond to support stem cell research, the bonds are tied up in lawsuits. Other states recently passed laws to fund stem-cell research, including Connecticut and Maryland. Unless New
Jersey acts quickly on this matter, it will lose the opportunity to lead.

New Jersey stem-cell research is moral. The funding will support all forms of stem-cell research, including adult, umbilical cord and embryonic. The research will save lives and restore function to thousands of people in New Jersey and millions of people worldwide.

Embryonic stem-cell research has nothing to do with abortions. The cells are derived from in-vitro fertilized embryos that are being discarded by their parents. Passage of the bill will not change the number of embryos that are thrown away. It just ensures that some of the embryos will be
used to save lives.

All the research will be rigorously peer-reviewed for scientific merit and ethical conduct.

State support of stem-cell research also is fiscally sound. The $250 million bond will be supported by cigarette taxes. Thus, it does not impose any load on the state budget deficit, and I cannot imagine a better way to spend cigarette tax money. A recent study conservatively
estimated that the proposed investment into stem-cell research will yield many billions in revenue, jobs and benefits for New Jersey. It will increase income to New Jersey in the coming decade and may be the best investment New Jersey can make for its future.

The bond will provide funds and facilities to attract the best stem-cell scientists to New Jersey. It will encourage pharmaceutical and biotechnical companies to establish their research programs in the state. It will boost life sciences research at Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. It will accelerate movement of stem cell therapies from laboratories to clinics, not only for the people of New Jersey, but the world.

We must allow science to go forward. Someday, adult and umbilical cord blood stem-cell treatments will provide cures for many conditions. However, at the present, adult stem cells are not yet curing neurological and other conditions. Embryonic stem cells possess capabilities adult and neonatal stem cells do not have. Scientists must be allowed to study them.

Allowing science to go ahead will lead us sooner to the day when we can convert any cell into a stem cell. At the present, the science is not sufficiently advanced for pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies to invest substantially in the research.

SCINJ will work closely with industry to develop foundational technologies that will allow stem cells to be come available to millions of people.