by Steven Ertelt
June 7, 2006
Hartford, CT (LifeNews.com) — The advisory committee charged with making recommendations for spending $20 million in taxpayer funds on stem cell research in the state has received 77 requests various requests for funding. Connecticut is one of three states, along with Illinois and California, to authorize using taxpayer funds for stem cell research — though others are hoping to join the list.
The committee has received dozens of letters from scientists and institutions wanting to conduct stem cell research.
M. William Lensch, a researcher at Children’s Hospital in Boston and member of the advisory committee, told the Hartford Courant newspaper he was pleased to see the large number of requests.
"This is the first clear indication we have had that we are on the right track," he said. "I’m incredibly pleased to see what has come in."
The committee will take more formal proposals next month and then submit them to a panel of five scientists who will make the suggestions to the committee about where the funds should go. The committee is expected to dole out the funds in October.
Two of the leading requests for funds come from Yale University and the University of Connecticut. Together, they have applied for $12.5 million to build three research facilities where their scientists will study human embryonic stem cells.
The new facilities are needed, the colleges say, because they can’t use federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.
Supported by pro-life groups, President Bush, in August 2001, put forward an executive order prohibiting the use of tax funds to pay for new embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of human life. Instead, Bush has spent hundreds of millions of dollars annually on adult stem cells, which have already provided dozens of cures and treatments.
But the committee may not fully fund the three research centers because to do so would leave less than $8 million for other projects.
The committee will eventually distribute $100 million in funding over the next 10 years.
Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, signed the measure allowing the funding in June 2005. It bans human reproductive cloning and the sale of human eggs, sperm and embryos, but allows human cloning for research purposes.
The law prohibits human embryos used in research from growing past 14 days, which detractors say mandates that all days-old unborn children must be killed for their stem cells.
In February, the panel determined the first $20 million it will dole out should go to scientists who are conducting embryonic stem cell research, which upset pro-life advocates.
Some lawmakers were concerned about spending the money because the deficit for fiscal year 2006-07 is projected to be anywhere from $600 million to $1.3 billion.