After a long delay, New Jersey approves $270 million for stem-cell research:
In 2004, Gov. James E. McGreevey signed a bill to establish the country’s first state-supported stem-cell research institute …
New Jersey also earned the distinction of becoming the second state in the nation, after California, to approve a law specifically legalizing embryonic stem-cell research …
But as politicians in New Jersey squabbled over the details of how to translate the idea of a research institute into a bricks-and-mortar reality, at least half a dozen states — including Connecticut and Maryland — created similar funds or research centers. In recent months, stem-cell advocates had become increasingly fretful that New Jersey was losing competitive ground.
Meanwhile, Kansas has approved a bioscience funding initiative that forbids funds from being used on this research. Missouri narrowly turned back a statewide ban in the last election, salvaging its world-class biomedical research center. Advocates of the research in Kansas are still worried about fighting defensive battles, ensuring that Kansas law does not explicitly forbid this type of research, or at least that the state impose no greater limits than federal law does.
There is little doubt among experts in the field that research on embryonic stem cells is going to produce major insights, results that either will allow the cells themselves to be used in treating illness, or that show how drugs or other therapies can be targeted at specific illnesses by better understanding the development of illnesses like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and nerve damage.
If scientists at Kansas universities make those discoveries, the state will be able to get royalties from resulting patents, and there’s a good chance that companies will spin off around the research facilities that produce important findings. If researchers in Kansas have to watch researchers across state lines make those discoveries, it will be harder to recruit and retain the sorts of personnel that produce those major discoveries, and the people of Kansas will lose out.
People in Kansas know that, and solid majorities support research on embryonic stem cells. We should learn from New Jersey’s example. Any delay in this fast-moving field will only hurt Kansas. The new legislature should amend the Bioscience Authority’s charter to permit any research permitted under federal guidelines.