Thursday, July 14, 2011
Although scientists are in a long term relationship with federal funding, the two don't always get along.
By now, you are probably well aware of the debate over the use of stem cells for scientific research. For many people suffering from debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research offers hope for a future free from disease. For others, it represents a moral failure to protect embryos that, if implanted, might develop into a human fetus.
This debate could rage for a long time, but what impact does it have on medical research? In the Spoonful of Medicine blog, Elie Dolgin points out that the on again/off again relationship between the US government and hESC research has left some scientists wondering if it’s time to break up with the feds and find a new partner.
Several states have attempted to stabilize the funding environment for this controversial research by awarding their own grants to scientists. The most notable example is California, whose Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) had, as of last July, awarded over $1 billion to stem cell researchers at more than 50 institutes.
There are now over 100 new faculty recruits in California who have CIRM funding for their research. Hundreds of CIRM-funded projects have also appeared in peer-reviewed articles published in respected journals.
A report by from the Berkeley Research Group, estimates that 24,000 jobs will be created in California by 2014 as a result of CIRM spending. Concentrating funding in California will also strengthen biotechnology clusters. Such clusters have been shown to encourage business formation and start-up employment as well as to attract venture capital.
While the controversy over hESC research continues to play out, California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Wisconsin and Maryland have seized on the opportunity to woo scientists. If the new relationships prove fruitful patients and jobseekers may have these states to thank.
Do you know where your elected official stands on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research? Have you told them where you stand?