Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey

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NJ stem cell facility hailed

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October 24, 2007

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Tuesday marked the start of construction on what he hailed as a world-class research facility many hope will make the state a global leader in stem cell work.

'The Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey will serve as the nexus of cutting edge scientific breakthroughs that will improve and save the lives of millions of our fellow citizens,' Corzine said in an afternoon ceremony near the construction site.

The $150 million, 18-story tower is to be built on a parking lot in downtown New Brunswick next to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, near Rutgers University, several other schools and hospitals and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Many believe stem cell research will bring cures for ailments such as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease, sickle cell anemia and multiple sclerosis.

The building, expected to be completed in spring 2011, is to have facilities for research, clinical study and outpatient treatment.

It will also feature the Christopher Reeve Pavilion in honor of the 'Superman' actor who was born in Princeton and promoted stem cell research after he was paralyzed in a 1995 horse riding accident. Reeve died in 2004 at age 52.

The money to build the facility was included in legislation signed into law in December 2006.

Alissa L. Johnson, of the Genetic Technologies (NASDAQ:GENE) Project for National Conference of State Legislatures, said New Jersey appears to be the first state to use public money to construct stem cell research facilities.

'This is an incredible day for the people of New Jersey and the world over who will benefit from the breakthroughs that may emerge here,' said Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex.

The law providing money for the New Brunswick facility also authorized $50 million to construct stem cell research facilities at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, $50 million for a biomedical research center in Camden, $10 million for research at the Garden State Cancer Center in Belleville and $10 million to do the same at the Eli Katz Umbilical Cord Blood Program in Allendale.

The state recently approved predevelopment work on the Camden and Belleville facilities.

'We are at a critical juncture in the history of science and New Jersey is seizing the moment by providing the facilities where the best and brightest minds can unlock the promise of stem cell therapies,' said Assemblyman Neil Cohen, D-Union.

The New Brunswick facility will be a collaborative effort between The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers University.

Abortion foes, who oppose embryonic stem cell research because it destroys human embryos, decried the plans and have filed a lawsuit against the state to block it from asking voters next month whether to approve borrowing $450 million for stem cell research grants.

An appeals court is expected to decide the lawsuit soon.

Marie Tasy, the executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, which filed the lawsuit, charged supporters of state investment in stem cell research with 'shamelessly exploiting the sick and infirmed with empty promises of miracle cures and false economic benefits.'
Gunter Schemmann, a cancer researcher at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, held a sign during the ceremony that featured an embryo and read, 'Even then you were precious.'

'I believe human life starts at conception and to destroy an embryo to get stem cells is to destroy human life,' he said.