California Agency Blasted for Only Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 4, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Agency Blasted for Only Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 4, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — This week, the California stem cell research agency announced it would fund $151 million in grants. However, the agency announced the funding would go only to those working with embryonic stem cell research and it’s coming unde fire from researchers who say that decision was misguided.

Pro-life advocates have been the leading opponents of embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of human life to be done.

But, numerous scientists and other groups join them in saying that adult stem cell research has done more to advance science and holds out more hope for patients.

Two researchers told the San Mateo County Times newspaper that the California committee should have spent at least part of the grant money on stem cell research involving animals or adult stem cells.

"I’m a little uncomfortable with it," Richard Murphy, president and CEO of the Salk Institute, a nonprofit biological research institute in San Diego, told the newspaper. "It may be the next big discovery is not in human (embryonic stem cell research)."

Paul Berg, Nobel laureate and biochemistry professor at Stanford University, agreed and said that those working with animal stem cells should have also gotten money.

"If they have a new idea, they’re not going to go right to human," Berg said. "They would start with mouse embryonic stem cells."

Other observers say the agency’s decision to fund only embryonic stem cell research is a political one and a knee-jerk reaction to President Bush’s veto of a Congressional bill forcing taxpayers to pay for more embryonic stem cell research.

Zach Hall, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, defended the grant decisions.

"We’re on training wheels here," Hall told the newspaper. "We’re faced with the challenge of getting these (grants) out while we’re building our infrastructure."

Thanks to a $150 million dollar loan Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized from the state government to the state’s embryonic stem cell research committee can begin funding its first round of grants. The grants had previously been held up because of lawsuits filed by pro-life and taxpayers groups.

After President Bush vetoed a Congressional measure that would have forced taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, Schwarzenegger said the state would make the loan.

As a result, the first grant for an embryonic stem cell research proposal could be made in February and the CIRM wants to begin reviewing proposals within weeks.

The committee plans to authorize $151.5 million in grants to 70 scientists, firms or colleges.