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$tem Cell$

Oct
12
2004

Deep down in the New York Times stem cell sidebar to actor Chris Reeve’s obit there’s a tantalizing little detail about the Bush Administration’s policy on stem cell research.
“I don’t think you have to elect Senator Kerry to have more stem cell research,” said Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, who is leading an effort in the Senate to expand the president’s policy. Mr. Specter said, “I can’t give you any specifics, but I think there’s a chance the president may have a different view in a second term.”
His remarks were echoed by two other Republicans, Representative Michael N. Castle of Delaware and James C. Greenwood of Pennsylvania. Mr. Greenwood, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the year to run the biotechnology industry’s trade association, said he thought Mr. Bush would wait until after the election to make any policy changes because to do so earlier “would make it look like it was being done for strictly political purposes.”

This is especially interesting for Californians.


If Prop. 71, the ballot initiative to provide $3 billion for such research in California, passes next month, it’ll be enhanced by whatever changes take place in federal policy. That’s good for San Francisco because the city is giving special tax breaks for bio-tech companies that locate here. And there’s a better than average chance that the state’s stem cell research center will be located here in the Bay Area which has a concentration of institutes already working in the area.
That will be very, very good news for Silicon Valley which has poured lots of money – at least a half-billion alone from partners at the powerhouse venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers — into backing Prop. 71. KP, as it’s known, will do very well from the bond issue backing companies created from the results of stem cell research. It will do even better if the Bush administration changes its mind. And yes, the Republicans probably are trying to play politics on this hoping their “leak” discourages support for Prop. 71. But, honestly, it should be the reverse.
The stem cell initiative is one that I support for a variety of reasons: personal, economic, and historical. But I’m voting for it knowing that I will be authorizing the state to sell bonds that will, eventually, help deliver a return on investment for the folks who are wealthy enough to support it in the first place.
This is a point that’s really been overlooked with all the talk of cures and good-doing or critiques based on bad science, alarmist reporting, and plain old dumb assumptions. In an era of diminished federal investment in infrastructure, research, and exploration, we can only hope that wealthier folks want to open their wallets. That’s exactly what’s going on in Silicon Valley where faith in science is a religion and where constant change is, by definition, a force for good. But there has to be a return on investment: profit, the larger the better. The social good, well, that’s nice, too. But money’s equally important.
This is a different way of conducting the public’s business and for all that’s been written about Prop 71 not much has focused on this important – and precedent-setting point. California, more than almost any other state, is at the hard intersection of business and politics; sometimes it feels like to two are insperable. That’s not, as the support for stem cell research shows, always a bad thing. But it’s something that can’t be left unchecked. It’ll cost us.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 12:13 PM | Permalink

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