Stem Cell Research Ruling and Growth

I’ve been writing about countercyclical regulatory policy as a way of boosting U.S. economic growth and innovation. The latest judicial move against stem cell research, though, is just the opposite.  Just to quote from an old colleague of mine at BW, Bruce Einhorn

Asian countries are well-positioned to benefit from the latest setback for stem cell research in the U.S. During the Bush years, countries such as Singapore and China took advantage of the U.S. ban on embryonic stem-cell research by providing a more welcoming environment for scientists to work. See, for example, this story I did back in 2005 about Asian efforts to capitalize on the U.S. ban. Describing what he called the “astonishing” progress made in Asia, Robert A. Goldstein, chief scientific officer at New York-based Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, told me then that many Asian governments were asking themselves: “Since the U.S. doesn’t seem to be taking a lead role, why don’t we?”

With Obama’s election and his easing of restrictions, that question became moot as the U.S. got back in the game. Now, though, the Aug. 23 ruling by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth halting U.S. funding for embryonic stem-cell research is a reminder of the uncertainty surrounding the issue in the States. Even if Judge Lambert’s ruling is overturned on appeal, what happens if Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, or some other conservative Republican defeats Obama in 2012? Count on a new executive order banning research before the Inauguration Day balls are even over. There’s almost zero chance of any such change in policy in Singapore, China, or other Asian countries aspiring to be centers of stem cell research.

If the U.S. wants to grow, making research harder is not the way to do it.

Comments

  1. True, but some people view this as a moral issue, saying that there are plenty of stem cell lines available that don’t require “killing babies”.

  2. Let me start off by saying I find moral protestations against stem cell research idiotic. However, I’m against forcing people with that belief to have their tax dollars spent on it, just as they shouldn’t be forced to have their tax dollars spent on abortions. Stem cell research is still legal in most states, all you’re complaining about is that it isn’t being helped with more govt funding, hardly making it “harder.” If all the whiners complaining about how they can’t take more tax money from others to fund stem cells would just donate $20 towards the research, I bet it would receive far more money. Instead they throw tantrums about how they can’t spend other people’s money, which is all they want to do in the first place.

    • “However, I’m against forcing people with that belief to have their tax dollars spent on it, just as they shouldn’t be forced to have their tax dollars spent on abortions.”

      And that’s the correct response in law: don’t take away people’s freedoms not to support what deeply offends them, but they don’t get to dominate the behavior of others, either.

  3. Michael,

    If the U.S. wants to grow, making research harder is not the way to do it.

    You are still assuming the US wants to grow.

    The US government does not want to grow. It wants to make the country socialist.

  4. Ruthmarie Hicks says:

    Some of the responses here reflect the poor understanding the public has about how science is funded and the nature of stem cell lines. Stem cell lines – are primary cell lines. As such – these lines are extremely delicate and for the most part can not be immortalized. Imortalization of such cell lines would alter them permanently with some transforming factors that could lead to such issues as the unregulated growth that happens in cancer. So – the cell lines are finite in nature. There were never as many cell lines as the Bush administration claimed. So the notion that there are “plenty of existing cell lines is 100% false.”

    The type of research being conducted in the stem cell field requires public funding. I can’t imagine any venture capitalist funding anything this basic. VC requires a time line and a product. We don’t have that yet. This is nothing new. Computer science began as research funded in academia. Basic research for biologics used in cancer therapy today began back in the 1940s in academia as publicly funded research. 90% of what we have today is the result of basic and publicly funded research.

    As far as people being “forced”to pay taxes they don’t believe in – HOGWASH!!! I paid taxes for a war in Iraq that I didn’t believe in. Being part of society often means paying taxes for things you don’t like. The right wing needs to grow up and realize that things don’t always go their way and there will be times that they will be forced to pay for things they don’t like. I have a feeling most would sing a different tune if they were lying in a hospital dying and stem cells offered them a lifeline.

    • Ruthmarie,

      “So the notion that there are “plenty of existing cell lines is 100% false.”
      The point is that research can be done. I’m not sure that you can regard any embryo as a human being from a moral sense, but if you could double the human lifespan in 10 years by killing humans, I would be horrified by it, and suggest a measured and proportionate response. And there are a number of good and highly motivated people who really believe embryos are babies, so…

      “As far as people being “forced”to pay taxes they don’t believe in – HOGWASH!!”
      I worded my statement carefully. Society should try, as much as is humanly possible, not to force people to pay for that which deeply offends them, for the sake of its own cohesion if nothing else. I was against Iraq too, but not enough to take to the streets. One can theorize a level of popular response that should have brought us home even at the risk of a destabilized situation, but we didn’t see one.

      One can’t make everyone happy, but to the greatest practical extent, one should respect human freedom.

  5. Ruthmarie, you are the one displaying your ignorance with your response. You rebut the notion that there are plenty of cell lines even though nobody here brought that issue up. There is nothing about stem cells that “requires public funding,” as there are private institutions funding all kinds of basic medical research, everything from AIDS to Alzheimer’s. VCs don’t fund much basic research, with the possible exception of some biotech. Computer science was funded in many different ways in its early stages, but was almost completely privately funded as the market took off in the 70s and 80s. Saying 90% of today’s products are based on “publicly funded” research is as ignorant as saying the govt created the internet by funding the TCP/IP protocols, ignoring all the private research that had to take place in subsequent decades to make those trivial protocols worthwhile.

    I see, it’s hogwash that they’re being forced because you were also forced to pay for the Iraq war? I’d prefer if nobody had to pay for stuff they don’t support, ie only Iraq war supporters’ taxes could fund the war, but it sounds like you are the one who needs to grow up and realize that things don’t always go your way, as so far the majority has decided not to fund stem cells with tax dollars. Perhaps stem cells would save the lives of those who are against it, maybe it will turn out to be a dead-end: we won’t know till the research is done and you’d be better off funding it yourself rather than complaining about how you can’t take other people’s money to fund it.

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