U.S. Stem Cell Policy – Ceding the Competitive Edge

By a margin of 63-34, the Senate passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act –  just 3 votes shy of a veto-proof bill.  A veto is promised.  We are back where we started.  Opponents claim a moral high ground that to support stem cell research means the destruction of lives.   Proponents might counter that by not supporting stem cell research, it also means the destruction of  lives as we shun the potential cures and treatments for people who are alive, but sick. 

But there is another angle, other than the highly focused moral arguments.  Biologics have provided the basis for a virtual revolution in healthcare.  Over the past 20 years, the treatments coming out of this relatively new way of making medicines, from living cells, has provided  innovative and promising ways to treat disease that were inconceivable only years earlier.  Biologics are the basis for many American companies to develop and innovate into powerhouses of research and development.

According to the Washington Post, at the time that our current stem cell policy was put into place, the Administration promised that 70 stem cell colonies would be accessible, yet the number has been a fraction of that.  Meanwhile, researchers abroad who are not suffering the political shackles of the more fundamental point of view, are conducting research into stem cell uses to provide promising treatments.

The end effect becomes obvious.  If, years ago, the U.S. had a policy that forbade the use of any living cells for the use of medicines, we would not have biologics in this country at all.  Does that sound any more far-fetched than our current policy?  There would be no American innovators making biologics that have had dramatic effects in patients who suffer from cancer.  And U.S. biologic companies might be in the U.K. or Switzerland or France, but certainly not in California. 

And people in the U.S. who are alive today, thanks to the innovations of these companies, might not be. 

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