by Steven Ertelt
May 1, 2006
Annapolis, MD (LifeNews.com) — Embryonic stem cell research advocates and lawmakers said that the state of Maryland needed to approve taxpayer funding for the controversial research or firms that use stem cells will move to other states. The state approved $15 million for stem cell research but a leading biotech firm says its moving anyway.
Rockville-based NeuralStem, which is looking for millions of dollars to develop products from stem cell research, said in a recent SEC filing that it plans to move to California.
The $300 million the state hopes to spend annually in taxpayer funds on stem cells and human cloning is apparently too good to pass up.
"The difference between $15 million and $300 million, you can’t even measure it," Richard Garr, NeuralStem’s president and CEO, told the Washington Business Journal. "It’s more enticing. It’s compelling. Maryland’s [funding] is helpful, but mostly as a public gesture."
Also, the $15 million has been authorized for one year and a state commission will determine where the money will go. A good chunk of it is expected to sent to researchers at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.
Garr says the company will keep a presence in Maryland, but should it move, it won’t be a huge loss for the state as it had already scaled down from 50 employees to just two. That comes as a result of a lack of interest in biotech firms from venture capitalists, namely because embryonic stem cell research is nowhere close to helping patients.
Steve Bent, who specializes in stem-cell issues as a partner at law firm Foley & Lardner in D.C, told the WBJ that venture capitalists "have stepped away from stem cells in droves."
Bent says investors don’t think companies like NeuralStem will be profitable because products coming from embryonic stem cell research are not on the horizon.
Bent told WBJ that NeuralStem or another stem-cell company could have a product on the market in five to 10 years, but "I wouldn’t bet the farm on it."