Stanford University has issued a press release, available on Genetic Engineering News
, about the consequences the delay in Prop. 71 funding is causing for some researchers. The press release describes two researchers who have developed two new embryonic stem cells lines but are facing funding-related problems: the lab where the lines were developed was built with a limited amount of non-federal funding and does not have the equipment that is needed. On the other hand, another campus lab with the proper equipment purchased the equipment with federal dollars, so it can’t be used to do the research. The researchers can’t afford to buy equipment or send the cells out to a private lab. (The stem cell lines were created with left-over IVF embryos that would otherwise have been discarded.) So they can’t do research, and they can’t publish their results.
The trial on the prop 71 lawsuit begins next week. (And on an unrelated note, what must jury selection be like? How can you not have a stake in the outcome if you’re a California taxpayer?)
Moving further south, the University of Southern California is receiving a large grant from private citizens for a 215,000 square foot facility for stem cell research. The AP story is reported on local television station KESQ
; there are no significant further details.
So here we have it. Embryonic stem cell research, which is important for understanding the biology of cell development, can only happen with private money. The limitations of this are obvious. In just one important instance, the ability for collaboration is greatly reduced. This concentrates the research into the hands of those who have obtained the private funding. Concentrating research like that limits the potential for innovation that is greater in a larger group, increases potential for pressure-based errors (whether technical or ethical), and ties scientific decisions to dollars more tightly than they would be in a wider research arena. Limited funding means limited debate.