Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Jersey's $5mill in stem cell grants Dec. 16, the day Hwang began confessing

On Friday, December 16, 2005, the state of New Jersey awarded $5 million in stem cell grants, just as Professor Hwang was holding a press conference admitting to certain irregularities in his stem cell research.

from AP through Yahoo:

A New Jersey commission on Friday [Dec. 16] awarded $5 million in grants for stem cell research, including what is expected to be the first disbursements from a state for experiments on human embryonic stem cells.

Three of the 17 grants involve human embryonic stem cells, a controversial area of an emerging science.

Supporters believe the stem cells, which can develop into any type of tissue in the body, will one day be useful in treating ailments ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer's and spinal cord injuries.

Many conservatives, including President Bush, oppose embryonic stem cell research because embryos are destroyed. Bush in 2001 restricted the use of federal money to embryonic stem cell lines already in existence.

The recipients of the three grants all intend to use existing lines, according to the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology.

The state commission believes that once the grant money is sent, New Jersey will become the first state to fund human embryonic stem cell research, said commission spokeswoman Michelle Ruess, who cited the National Conference of State Legislatures and the International Society of Stem Cell Research.

California voters approved allocating $3 billion for such research in 2004, and some human embryonic projects were chosen, but lawsuits have blocked any money from being sent.

"This funding will hopefully set the stage for a new era in medical treatments that will ease the suffering of millions and ultimately save lives," said acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, who created the research grant program.

The New Jersey commission had the grant applications rated by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and reviewed by the state Ethics Advisory Panel for Stem Cell Research.

One award — to researchers with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School — would use existing stem cells lines approved by the Bush administration and the National Institutes of Health, and lines from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

In a first, New Jersey awards stem-cell grants

TRENTON, Dec. 17, 2005 - The state [NJ] became the first in the nation yesterday [Dec. 16, 2005] to fund stem-cell research, awarding grants to 17 researchers at universities, nonprofit institutions and corporate labs.

The grants of up to $300,000 each fund two years of research and were made possible by a $5 million allocation in the $28 billion state budget that acting Gov. Richard J. Codey signed in July. The New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology chose the recipients from 71 applicants. The researchers will study both adult stem cells, culled from spinal-cord fluid, and embryonic stem cells, which are formed in the first days of pregnancy.

Although California voters approved a $3 billion bond for stem-cell research last year, that state has yet to award any money, making New Jersey the first state to fund stem-cell research.

The New Jersey State Senate approved legislation Thursday that would place a $350 million bond referendum for stem-cell research grants on the ballot in November, but the bill's fate in the Assembly is uncertain during the lame-duck legislative session.

from David W. Chen of

TRENTON, Dec. 16 - New Jersey officials on Friday announced $5 million in grants for stem cell research, including studies involving human embryonic stem cells. The awards are said to be the first instance of a state using public funds for such research.

The grants may appear to be modest compared with those for other scientific endeavors, but they represent an important step in New Jersey's effort to establish a stem cell research industry. With strong competition already under way from California and Florida, supporters say, New Jersey cannot afford to fall behind.

"The grants we have awarded today are based on science, not politics, and have been conceived by some of the brightest minds and best institutions in our state," Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey said in a statement. "This funding will hopefully set the stage for a new era in medical treatments that will ease the suffering of millions and ultimately save lives."

State officials said the grants would fund research using embryonic stem cells from humans and mice, as well as adult stem cells. The research will examine how stem cells work and how they might be used to treat heart disease, brain and spinal cord injuries and autoimmune diseases, officials said. Three of the 17 awards went to projects that would use human embryonic stem cells.

To supporters of such research, the grants represented a bit of good news at a time when progress has been uneven or uncertain.

In California, more than a year after 59 percent of voters approved an ambitious $3 billion stem cell research institute, not a single dollar has yet been spent on research. Instead, the endeavor has been slowed by litigation and concerns about possible conflicts involving board members from universities that could receive grants.

In New Jersey, the State Senate on Thursday approved placing a $350 million bond initiative for stem cell research on the ballot next November for voter approval. But its future in the Assembly is uncertain. Some legislators say they are concerned about the state taking on more debt while it faces a potential deficit of as much as $6 billion. Others appear to be sensitive to criticism from conservative groups that liken embryonic stem cell research to abortion.

New Jersey, which has already created a Stem Cell Institute to finance research, has been one of the most aggressive states in the field. With the announcement of the grants, it has become the first to use state funds for that research, according to Nicole Moore, a spokeswoman for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Out of 71 applicants from private companies, universities and nonprofit institutions, the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology approved 17 grants of up to $300,000 over two years. Seven went to scientists affiliated with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and three each went to scientists affiliated with Princeton and Rutgers Universities


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