Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey

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State awards $10 million for stem cell studies

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Gannett State Bureau

TRENTON—The commission overlooking scientific and technology development in New Jersey awarded roughly $10 million in state grants to fund support of human embryonic and adult stem-cell research Tuesday.

As part of New Jersey's effort to finance researchers to find cures for serious diseases, as well as promote scientific businesses, the Commission on Science and Technology approved 18 two-year grants to explore the possibilities of stem cells, which advocates say may lead to cures for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases and repair spinal cord tissue in paraplegics. The money awarded goes to research not covered by federal dollars, said the commission's acting executive director, Joshua Trojak.

Trojak said along with promoting humanitarian benefits, the state also has an economic interest.
"We're bringing in the best researchers, which will bring in the best companies, which will bring in more money to the field. It could be an economic boost to the state," said Trojak.
The state also could see a cut from any medicines or products developed from the projects, added Trojak.

Though supporters say human embryonic stem cells hold a better chance for a breakthrough, they are controversial as opponents say the destruction of the cells is akin to killing a human. On "moral and scientific grounds," the sole opposition vote to this round of grants came from commission member Assemblyman John Rooney, R-Bergen.

"There are no proven successes with embryonic stem cells. There is with adult and umbilical," said Rooney.

Two "core facilities" were given state grants to equip their sites and conduct multiple research projects using human embryonic stem cells.

Dr. Martin Grumet of Rutgers University received around $3 million for research projects in conjunction with Reprogenetics, West Orange. Dr. Patrizia Cassacia-Bonnefil of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey received around $2.5 million. Sixteen grants were given out to individual researchers across the state, all around $300,000 each. Fourteen were aimed at adult stem cells project, two at embryonic.

Bob Katz, 60, East Windsor, a father of a paraplegic, said the state is misguided focusing on adult stem cells because federal funds support that research and told the commission they had "a poor showing" by giving out those grants.

In 2005, the state awarded $5 million to various researchers, the first time it handed out grants.
The state-financed grants are separate from other efforts the state is making to finance stem-cell research. Lawmakers Thursday plan to vote on a bill that would ask voters in November to allow the state to borrow $450 million to fund stem cell research for 10 years. And last week the Economic Development Authority authorized $9.2 million to fund the development of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick.

Also ran in: Asbury Park Press, Home news Tribune & Daily Record