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University Presidents: NY Must Act on Stem Cell Research

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Leaders of New York’s major research universities and institutions today called upon lawmakers in Albany to act quickly and establish a state fund to support stem cell research.  

Presidents and chancellors representing 17 New York universities and institutions with substantial biomedical and life sciences research programs today released a comprehensive analysis of the scientific, therapeutic, and economic issues related to stem cell research.  The study, titled “New York and Stem Cell Research,” details the competitive research environment that has emerged in past several years and its implications for the state’s biomedical research community and economy. 

Federal funding restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research have prompted several states to establish state-based research funds aimed at capturing the scientific and commercial potential of this new field of medicine.  The most prominent example is California, where last year voters approved an initiative to establish a 10-year, $3 billion stem cell research fund.  Several other states, including New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and Maryland in the Northeast, have or are in the process of establishing similar funds. 

While New York’s research institutions are widely acknowledged to possess the scientific talent that would enable the state to be a major international player in the emerging field of stem cell research, the fear is that these researchers will be recruited away to institutions in other states where they would have access to more resources to pursue their research.  The loss of these scientists will have a significant negative ripple effect on a university’s entire research enterprise as research grants, junior scientists, biotech companies, and venture capital will similarly migrate to those institutions that are perceived to be on the cutting edge of biomedical research.

A decline in the fortunes of New York’s biomedical research community would have significant economic consequences for the entire state. New York’s State universities, teaching hospitals, and research laboratories contribute significantly to the state’s economy through employment, through spending and through the development of innovative products and concepts for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.  The academic medical community contributes an estimated $30 billion per year to the state’s economy and generates more than 459,000 jobs.  The biotech and pharmaceutical sectors are responsible for $18.1 billion in economic activity and 110,000 jobs.

There are several proposals related to biomedical research pending consideration in the New York legislature.  Two bills, introduced last year by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Sen. Nicholas Spano, would establish multi-year stem cell research funds of $300 and $125 million respectively.  The Assembly passed its version of the bill on January 10, by a vote of 96-35.  On January 26, Governor George Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno announced a $200 million public-private initiative to support biomedical research and biotech business development.

Signatories to the study include:

James J. Barba, President, Albany Medical Center

Lee C. Bollinger, J.D., President, Columbia University

Nancy Cantor, Ph.D., Chancellor, Syracuse University

Kenneth L. Davis, M.D., President, Mt. Sinai Medical Center

Gregory L. Eastwood, M.D., President, SUNY Upstate Medical University

David C. Hohn, M.D., President, Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Richard M. Joel, J.D., President, Yeshiva University

Shirley Strum Kenny, Ph.D., President, Stony Brook University

John C. LaRosa, M.D., President, SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Paul Nurse, Ph.D., President, Rockefeller University

Hunter R. Rawlings III, Ph.D., President, Cornell University

Joel Seligman, J.D., President   , University of Rochester

John E. Sexton, J.D., Ph.D., President, New York University

Albert J. Simone, Ph.D., President, Rochester Institute of Technology

John B. Simpson, Ph.D. President, University at Buffalo

A copy of the white paper, titled “New York and Stem Cell Research: A Scientific, Therapeutic, Economic, and Policy Analysis,” can be downloaded from http://www.rochester.edu/news/pdfs/stemcellwhitepaper.pdf

 “If universities in New York are to remain at the forefront of health innovation and discovery, we must move forward, within an ethical framework and with adequate controls, to realize the full potential of this new frontier of biomedical research that promises to address some of our most pressing health concerns,” said Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson. “We need to send a clear message to the global research community that New York State will be a leader in stem cell research, including embryonic stem cell research.” – Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Tiffany Lohwater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 518-276-6542, lohwat@rpi.edu

 “Stem cell research can help scientists unlock the mysteries of many diseases that afflict both adults and children. When we devote resources to stem cell research, we invest in the health of people across the nation. That's an investment we can't afford not to make.” – Shirley Strum Kenny, Ph.D., President, Stony Brook University

Patrick Calabria, Stony Brook University, 631 632-4965, pcalabria@notes.cc.sunysb.edu

Joseph Bonner, Rockefeller University, 212 327-8998, bonnerj@rockefeller.edu

“Never before in the history of medicine has there been such promise for treating some of the most debilitating disorders of the human condition.  This promise lies in the expectation that stem cell research will play a significant role in providing revolutionary therapies for degenerative diseases.  Stem cell research is the hope of the future.  The citizens of this great State of New York should not be denied these future benefits.” –Dominick P. Purpura, M.D., Vice President for Medical Affairs, Yeshiva University, Dean, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Abraham Habenstreit, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 718 430-3601, habenstr@aecom.yu.edu

“Never before in the history of medicine has there been such promise for treating some of the most debilitating disorders of the human condition.  This promise lies in the expectation that stem cell research will play a significant role in providing revolutionary therapies for degenerative diseases.  Stem cell research is the hope of the future.  The citizens of this great State of New York should not be denied these future benefits.” –Dominick P. Purpura, M.D., Vice President for Medical Affairs, Yeshiva University, Dean, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

“It is critical that New York be at the cutting edge of research on new frontiers of science such as stem cells.  With the investments that the State has already made in biotechnology and biomedical science facilities, we have the necessary infrastructure to be at the forefront for new discoveries and to realize their economic potential.  It is essential that we take this next step to support the scientific needs of stem cell research.” – Albert J. Simone, Ph.D., President, Rochester Institute of Technology

Deborah M. Stendardi, Rochester Institute of Technology, 585-475-5040, dmsgrl@rit.edu

“Clearly, stem cell research is of great significance to the future of biomedical research, with major implications for treating and preventing devastating human diseases.  State support for biomedical research is vital to helping New York State’s research institutions to sustain a leading role in addressing key medical and health care issues, and to continue to serve as catalysts for economic growth and innovation throughout the state.  As we strive to build our faculty, medical, and technological resources in all areas of the life sciences, we appreciate the continued leadership and support Governor Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Bruno, Assembly Speaker Silver, and other state leaders have committed to making biomedical research a priority.” – John B. Simpson, Ph.D., President, University at Buffalo

 

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