UR President Joel Seligman joined 16 other leaders of New York’s major research universities and institutions yesterday in signing a proposal to urge lawmakers in Albany to institute a state fund supporting stem cell research.

“Stem cell science is in the process of reshaping the entire field of biomedical research,” Seligman said in January. “The tremendous potential of this science has triggered an international race to accumulate resources and scientific talent. This new competitive environment will have long-term implications for New York’s research community and economy.”

These 17 representatives released a comprehensive analysis of the scientific, therapeutic and economic issues related to stem cell research. Included in those whose names appear on the proposal are presidents and chancellors from Columbia University, Syracuse University, Cornell University, New York University and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Because of the current federal funding restrictions that have been placed on human embryonic stem cell research, several states have already launched state-based research funds and are reaping the benefits. California, for example, voted last year to create a 10-year, $3 billion stem cell research fund. New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts have also begun work in this field.

“New York is poised to become an international leader in the field of stem cell research, but only if the state continues to act quickly to make up the ground that has already been lost,” Seligman said.

Seligman believes that this proposal can have a very powerful, positive impact on UR as well. “Scientists at the UR Medical Center are making significant contributions to the field of stem cell science and are conducting research that has the potential to lead to new regenerative therapies for spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s, heart disease and cancer, to name a few,” he said. “With state support, we will strengthen our universities’ leadership in the field of biomedical research, create new companies and jobs and develop technologies that have the potential to improve the lives of millions of Americans.”

Those who signed the proposal agree that their institutions have much to gain from the state’s support of stem cell research. They also agree that there is even more to lose if the state is not in agreement with these universities and institutions. According to the proposal, “If New York fails to invest public funds in stem cell research it will begin to lose its most talented scientists and the biomedical research conducted at its universities and institutes will suffer.”

Currently, these New York research institutions possess the talent that would allow New York State to have a major impact in the field of stem cell research. However, according to yesterday’s release, many fear that these researchers will be recruited by institutions in other states where they will be more able to embark on this type of research. This exodus would negatively effect the entire institution and in effect, the entire state of New York.

These universities and institutions, as an academic medical community, contribute an estimated $30 billion per year to the state’s economy and generate over 459,000 jobs.

“The state’s concentration of world-class research universities and institutions, teaching hospitals and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies provide the necessary capacity to rapidly advance this research, create new jobs and companies and develop technologies that could potentially improve the lives of millions of Americans,” Seligman said regarding the passage of A6300 by the New York Assembly that would permit stem cell research and provide $100 million annually in public money to fund the research and would also strictly prohibit reproductive cloning.

The A63000 is one of several biomedical research proposals that are already being considered by the New York State legislature. Two of these bills propose the establishment of multi-year stem cell research funds of $300 and $125 million.

The entire proposal, which can be viewed at http://www.rochester.edu/news/pdfs/stemcellwhitepaper.pdf details the various types of stem cell research and explains how the millions of Americans who suffer from a wide range of debilitating diseases can potentially benefit from this research.

There has not been any vocal resistance from within UR to this proposal. “There has been no opposition to my knowledge from the university to stem cell research,” Seligman said. “I have spoken to the President’s Cabinet which includes deans and the senior vice president for health affairs, the university board of trustees and several professors with interest in this area.”Paret can be reached at eparet@campustimes.org.

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