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Corzine pushes for stem cell funds

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The Record
October 24, 2007
By BOB GROVES
STAFF WRITER

NEW BRUNSWICK -- Governor Corzine urged New Jersey voters on Tuesday to approve a $450 million bond issue to fund research of all types of stem cells, including those from human embryos.

"Ethically and morally, we're doing the right thing," Corzine said at the groundbreaking of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey's Christopher Reeve Pavilion.

New Jersey is the second state in the nation to authorize stem cell research, and the first to devote monies to the work, Corzine told about 400 people during the ceremony, held indoors at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital because of high winds.

"We need to keep that progress going forward," he said. "If there was ever a reason to vote, to go out and push for cures," it is the Stem Cell Research Bond Act referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot, Corzine said.

The bonds would provide $45 million per year for 10 years, beginning in 2008. They would fund research on stem cells, which can become different kinds of specialized tissue and muscle cells in the body. Proponents say they have potential to treat and cure diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and spinal cord injuries.

Critics charge that research could lead to human cloning, and that use of embryonic stem cells from discarded fertilized human eggs is morally untenable. On Monday, the Legal Center for Defense of Life asked a state appellate court panel in Newark to strike the bond issue from the ballot and put it before the Legislature. The panel is expected to rule quickly.

The Tuesday groundbreaking was for the $150 million Stem Cell Institute, one of several facilities funded by an earlier and unrelated $270 million appropriation by the state Legislature.

It is named for Reeve, the late "Superman" actor and onetime Princeton resident who lobbied tirelessly for stem cell research after he was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident.

"The motto of the Reeve Foundation is "Move Forward," said Reeve's brother, Benjamin. Building the Stem Cell Institute "is exactly what we mean," he said. The facility will occupy five floors and 160,000 square feet of an 18-story tower.

State Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen, D-Union, a leading supporter of the project, said he did not care where the stem cells come from because, "their potential is enormous."

"I'm concerned that this ballot needs to get passed, not just for new jobs, but for that child born with leukemia who can't see the sunrise, or the seniors with Alzheimer's who can't remember," Cohen said.