Stem-Cell Gold Rush Spreads Beyond California

Opinion: Following the news that California will spend $3 billion over the next decade on stem cell research, other states are pushing to make sure that they also get a piece of the booming biotech industry.

The $3 billion that California will spend over the next 10 years on stem cell research has been repeatedly described as a 21st-century gold rush. Its a tremendous amount of money, and its an incentive for scientists and researchers to come to the state.

Given the talk about recruitment and relocation, comparisons to the gold rush are apt. In 1848, people arriving in California by boat were so anxious to start panning for gold that ships were abandoned in the San Francisco harbor. Passengers and crews abandoned the high seas for the high Sierra mountains.

And certainly its getting a bit tedious to watch recruiters from universities and other research institutions grin as they talk about the increased budgets, the new, sizeable grants—and, of course, the weather—as they metaphorically rub their hands together in gleeful anticipation of whats to come. Research grants could be made as early as May.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about Californias stem cell initiative.

But a funny, 21st-century thing is happening in reaction to Californias stem cell bonanza: States are fighting back. And theyre putting pressure on the federal government to amend its policies to fund the kind of research California has authorized.

Californias $3 billion initiative—backed in large part by biotech-savvy investors in Silicon Valley—was approved in November. For many of those working to approve the measure, it served as a rebuke to the Bush administration.

Early in his first term, President Bush put strict limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, saying that the work—in which days- and hours-old human embryos are often destroyed—was ethically questionable.

The administrations stance on the issue was denounced by Democrats during the presidential election campaigns. But now it seems that both parties are working within the states to follow Californias lead. If proposals now put forward are enacted, embryonic stem cell research could receive another $3 billion in research support across the country.

Its not hard to see why the taps have opened. Like California, the states most concerned about losing out to the West Coast have strong, well-known universities or other research institutions that rely on grants for much of their financial support to conduct work and to keep researchers and scientists on staff.

That research is often the starting point for the development of drugs, devices and procedures around which profit-making companies can be created.

Next Page: Politicians nationwide take up the issue.