This is a guest post by Laurel Barchas, the Director of Academic Outreach for the Genetics Policy Institute and a friend and classmate of my old pal Nick Matzke at Berkley. It’s about an upcoming conference on stem cell research and the political implications for that research pending the outcome of the presidential election.
Stem cells in the 2012 Presidential election
By Laurel Barchas, October 2, 2012
The results of the upcoming election will be crucial to the future of stem cell research and regenerative medicine in the U.S. and globally. In 2009, Obama reversed Bush’s eight-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research using human embryos derived from in vitro fertilization. This year, if Romney is elected (Darwin forbid), we may see another reversal of funding status to that of the Bush era. Romney surprisingly is in favor of deriving stem cells from in vitro embryos that have gone through “rigorous parental consent”, but is not going to allow federal funding to clone or create/derive embryos to create stem cell lines. Instead, he supports genetic reprogramming to create “induced” embryonic stem cells using a patient’s own cells. This is certainly a promising avenue of research, but many people in the scientific community can’t see a world without embryonic stem cell research funded by the federal government. Much more potent than adult stem cells, naturally-derived and induced embryonic stem cells are incredibly important to understand development and disease processes. Furthermore, federal funds for all national scientific institutes is decreasing 9% next year, and scientists who are already being funded for embryonic stem cell research will lose their grants. Even more damaging, this will severely limit the number of labs filled with new ideas and fresh faculty, because grants from established labs are more likely to be funded when funding is cut.
There is an active community of scientists, patient advocates, educators, lawyers and regulators, doctors, industry professionals, and students who meet once a year at the World Stem Cell Summit. This three-day conference, happening this year December 3-5 in West Palm Beach, Florida (fun?!), is the largest and most comprehensive multi-track interdisciplinary stem cell event, featuring 170+ renowned international speakers and 50+ hours of in-depth programming in tracks covering research, translation, regulation, commercialization, and consumer safety.As an attendee, you will be exposed to cutting-edge everything—in every area of the stem cell field. It really is an incredible experience for first timers and you can check out the agenda and speaker list at www.worldstemcellsummit.com.
We understand that people reading this blog are connected and care about our country’s scientific future. If we come together as a unit, we are better able to fight proposed legislative changes that would shut down hope for many Americans who want to see our (significant) investments bear fruit.
The World Stem Cell Summit is an effective platform for you to advance all objectives related to the field of regenerative medicine, while enabling a more supportive climate for research. Join your colleagues around the world for an event you will never forget. Please forward this on to others in a broad range of fields. We are counting on you to spread the word!
Director of Academic Outreach, Genetics Policy Institute
Ph.D. Candidate, Integrative Biology, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, UC Berkeley
Laurel Barchas is a California native and long-time advocate for regenerative medicine. Laurel is currently in a doctoral program at UC Berkeley studying the effects of stress on adult neural stem cells. At age 22, she authored the California State Stem Cell Curriculum, freely available at cirm.ca.gov/stem_cell_education_portal, which is being used in high schools and colleges around the nation. Laurel intends to enter another doctoral program in Science and Mathematics Education so she can critically evaluate of the CIRM curriculum, develop more educational materials, and make an impact on how young people view science.