Thursday, July 14, 2011

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

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.

While it may seem that the public is divided on this controversial issue, a recent poll commissioned by Research!America shows that 72% of Americans favor expanding embryonic stem cell research.

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?

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  1. Interesting post and encouraging to see states taking up the slack for federal funding, but are they capable of bridging the full gap? I worry that in the current economic and austerity-driven political environment it will be hard to create more CIRM-like funding institutions, no matter how important for future growth. Are the other states listed above stalled in their efforts to fund hESC research or are they still moving forward? Maybe using the job creation argument combined with fear of biotech cluster loss is enough to convince legislatures, but certainly state advocates face an uphill battle?

  2. It's true that states will not be able (or willing) to bridge the full gap left by the federal government. Even in the case of CIRM, the ballot initiative that allowed the state to issue the necessary bond was passed in 2004. It is unlikely that the same measure would pass today. Some of the other states I mentioned have been able to distribute funds but others have struggled probably in large part due to the economic downturn. An interesting note about CIRM is that the agreement made by the state included a provision that California is entitled to royalties from marketable products resulting from the funding. I think this is an interesting model for other states to consider in planning for their long term economic growth.

  3. Breaking up might be hard to do, but sometimes it’s also the right thing to do.

    Here are 10 excellent reasons to break up:

    1. You know the relationship has no long-term potential. After dating for a while, if you realize that the relationship will eventually run its course, ending it is likely the best thing for both of you. You want to find someone who will be in it for the long haul.

    2. The relationship has run its course. Maybe you didn’t get out early enough. Get out now. When the relationship feels over, let it be over. Don’t cling to it just because you’ve wasted so much time on it already.

    3. You’ve been hurt physically or emotionally. Some damage can’t be undone. Staying in an abusive relationship will only deepen those wounds with time, it won’t heal them. Seek professional help if you’re not sure how to leave.

    4. You’ve been cheated on, or you’ve cheated. Rarely can dating relationships rebound from infidelity. Let him/her go.

    5. Someone else is on your mind. Do. Not. Cheat. If you’re constantly wishing your significant other was someone else — or that you could date other people — take the high road and end the relationship before things get messy.

    6. Everyone else is rallying against the relationship. If your friends and family — people who are generally trustworthy and supportive — hate your relationship, listen to them. Sometimes outsiders have better perspectives of an unhealthy relationship than those in it.

    7. Your values don’t align. Sure, you both like Thai food, reggae and Christopher Nolan films. But if all you have in common is the little stuff, the relationship is going to be stunted. If you know that you don’t agree on things like family, faith and finances, it’s okay to end things amicably so that you can both find people who have similar priorities.

    8. You’re not happy — and haven’t been for a very long time. Every relationship has its ups and downs. But if you can’t remember the last time either of you laughed or had a great time together, assess the health of your relationship. Are you staying because you want to? Or just because you’re stubborn?

    9. You feel uneasy about the relationship. If you’re constantly trying to convince yourself to stay, maybe you shouldn’t. Trust your intuition.

    10. You’re not growing together. Neither of you are at your best when you’re together. There’s no personal growth, you don’t feel good about yourself when you’re with your significant other and you’re no longer thriving. A healthy relationship brings out the best in both partners.

    More tips on how to capture a man's heart and make him love you forever?