Report Shows Adult Stem Cell Research Produces Results, Draws Money

By Michelle Bauman

-- A new report on one of the world's largest funders of stem cell research reveals that an emphasis on results has led to a shift in funding towards morally-acceptable work with adult stem cells.

In the field of stem cell research, the “predominant progress” is being made by non-controversial adult stem cells, said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which serves as the education and research arm of pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.

Donovan told CNA on July 16 that an analysis of scientific funding over several years suggests that morally acceptable types of stem cell research offer the greatest promise for a wide variety of effective therapies and treatments.

Research on adult stem cells does not require the destruction of a human embryo and therefore does not pose the ethical difficulties associated with embryonic stem cell research. In addition, adult stem cell research has already contributed to advancing therapies for various diseases.

On July 12, the Lozier Institute released a report titled “The Ethical Stems of Good Science,” which examined changes in the funding offered by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine since 2007.

The California institute was created after President George W. Bush announced in 2001 that his administration would become the first to provide federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, although this funding was limited to stem cell lines that had already been developed.

Dissatisfied with the limits put in place by the president, California established its own Institute for Regenerative Medicine to distribute $3 billion to stem cell research efforts, with a particular emphasis on human embryonic stem cells and other types of research that received limited or no federal funding.

One calculation found that the institute was “the largest funder of overall stem cell research in the world” from 2007, when it first began issuing grants, to February 2011.

According to the recent Lozier report, the California institute funded more than 100 projects in 2007 involving embryonic research and cloning, while giving virtually no funding to adult or other non-embryonic avenues of stem cell research.

In the years that followed, however, the organization’s grants increasingly went to fund projects using non-controversial forms of research.  

A new category of grants in 2009 was specifically awarded to projects with “the best chance of resulting in clinical trials,” the report observed. Of these grants, only four went to human embryonic stem cell research, while the remaining 10 went to non-embryonic types of research.

This trend has continued every year since 2009, the report found. As grants are awarded “based on their potential to prove therapeutically beneficial,” non-embryonic research receives far more support than embryonic research.

The failure of embryonic stem cell research to yield therapeutic results has also led private investors to put their money elsewhere. Last November, the biopharmecuetical company Geron announced that it had ended a widely publicized embryonic stem cell research study due to “capital scarcity.”

Donovan said that the shift in funding based on results is logical.

In a statement released with the Lozier report, he explained that “despite the millions of dollars spent on this research, cures brought about by embryonic stem cells have continued to prove elusive, while adult stem cell research applications have exploded.”

“As the leading funder of stem cell research, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has made grant decisions that show where the industry sees promise,” he noted. “In the past six years, where that promise lies has become increasingly clear: ethical adult stem cell research.”

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