Harvard University Will Open Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 29, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Harvard University Will Open Embryonic Stem Cell Research Center

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 29, 2004

Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) — On the heels of a decision by the governor of New Jersey to spend millions funding destructive embryonic stem cell research, Harvard University announced on Sunday that it plans to open a center to grow and destroy human embryos for research.

If the center moves forward as planned, it could become the largest private-funded stem cell research project in the United States. According to scientists involved in the project, Harvard will seek to raise $100 million to finance the new center.

Some of those involved in the project view it as a response to rules President Bush handed down about federal funding.

In August 2001, President Bush announced a policy that would prohibit the federal funding of any new embryonic stem cell research. Because so few stem cell lines were available at the time, many of which were later determined unusable, scientists say Bush’s decision effectively shut off virtually all funding for the controversial research.

"Harvard has the resources, Harvard has the breadth, and, frankly, Harvard has the responsibility to be taking up the slack that the government is leaving," Dr. George Q. Daley, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston, told the Boston Globe newspaper.

The Harvard Stem Cell Institute will conduct research on embryonic stem cells and make them available to scientists in the Boston area and beyond.

News that South Korean researchers successfully extracted stem cells from human embryos may have sparked the Harvard project as researchers feared they were falling behind in the science race.

“It’s a terrible disappointment that we’re reading about it from other countries,” says David T. Scadden, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Regenerative Medicine and Technology. “It’s imperative that we be able to use this technology in the U.S.”

MGH will form a partnership with Harvard to conducted the embryonic stem cell research and will open a private lab usable by Harvard scientists.

Dr. Douglas A. Melton, a molecular biologist at Harvard, made headlines in 2003 when he announced that he had developed 17 embryonic stem cell lines, which he will make available for research this year.

Since Melton’s cell lines don’t meet federal criteria, scientists wanting to use them nust obtain private funding.

According to the Globe, scientists interested in working with newer human embryonic stem cells have to keep that work separate from any research done with federal money. Leading Harvard researchers have been scurrying to build new labs to use in the research so labs built with federal funds aren’t in violation of the rules.

Privately funded efforts to study embryonic stem cells are underway at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota, and the University of California, San Francisco and Stanford University recently announced $12 million venture to create human embryonic stem cells lines.

Meanwhile, activists in California have floated a ballot proposal that would use $3 billion in tax funds to finance such research.