Wisconsin Gives $1 Million to Embryonic Stem Cell Research Firm

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 11, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
October 11
, 2006

Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — The state of Wisconsin is giving $1 million to a new embryonic stem cell research firm founded by the scientist who discovered stem cells. Researcher James Thomson says his new firm, Stem Cell Products, Inc., hopes to create blood products from embryonic stem cells.

Thomson appeared at a news conference Tuesday with Gov. Jim Doyle, who announced that the state is giving the biotech firm $250,000 in taxpayer funds and a $750,000 loan.

The firm hopes to make blood platelets and red blood cells that could possibly be used to treat wounded soldiers, though the process hasn’t been perfected yet.

Platelets help make blood clot and are taken from donated blood and used to treat people undergoing severe trauma or chemotherapy. They can only live for five days and that makes it tough to treat wounded soldiers abroad.

Using a grant from the U.S. military, Thomson says he discovered how to turn embryonic stem cells into platelets and his company could mass produce them and supply them to the military for its use.

The company still has to figure out to produce the platelets in a cost-effective manner and get the federal government’s approve to use them in medical procedures.

"We don’t know how long it will take to make these products available to patients," vice president Nick Seay told the Associated Press. "We have a lot of work to do in scaling this work up. The important point is that we know it can be done. It’s a matter of technology development, engineering, money and time."

He said streamlining the process would take so long it will not help soldiers currently stationed in Iraq.

If the company succeeds the blood products would be the first ever therapy derived from embryonic stem cells. The use of adult stem cells has already provided dozens of treatments for various diseases and conditions.

The state funding comes from a $5 million executive order Doyle issued last year that drew opposition from pro-life groups and pro-life gubernatorial candidate Mark Green.

Thomson founded the firm with fellow UW researchers Igor Slukvin, Dong Chen and others and the grants come from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce.