University of Michigan stem cell backers disappointed as State Senate passes restrictions
University of Michigan officials reacted with disappointment Wednesday afternoon after the State Senate passed a bill in a package of bills they say would create "unnecessary and burdensome regulations" on embryonic stem cell research in the state.
According to the Associated Press, Michigan embryonic stem cell researchers would have to submit annual reports to the state under the terms of the legislation. That bill passed by a 25-12 vote and will move on to the Democrat-controlled House. The measures backed mainly by conservative Republicans and groups including the Michigan Catholic Conference will likely die there, AP said.
The bills are the first attempt by state lawmakers to further define a voter-approved measure that changed the state Constitution in 2008. The measure loosened state restrictions on embryonic stem cell research by allowing people to donate embryos left over from fertility treatments.
"The proposed regulations would undermine the expressed will of Michigan voters and would discourage our scientists from pursuing research that promises to improve the treatment of deadly diseases," said Cynthia Wilbanks, U-M's vice president for government relations. "Embryonic stem cell research is already one of the most highly regulated areas of U.S. biomedical science."
It took the university more than a year to create a framework "for the conduct of embryonic stem cell research" to meet requirements for state and federals laws.
Sean Morrison, the director of the U-M Life Sciences Institute's Center for Stem Cell Biology said the package of bills approved by the Senate have a chilling effect on research.
"Proposal 2 created great momentum for research in Michigan. No longer could people color the state as being a hostile environment (for embryonic stem cell research)," Morrison said.
Recruits from states like California, Massachusetts and New York often question why researchers would try to do stem cell research in MIchigan when other states are more stem cell research friendly, he said.
"You can't imagine the chilling effect this would have on stem cell research and how frustrating this is after the people have spoken that the legislature still has the ability to block main stream research," Morrison said. "People talk about diversifying the economy and having a more diverse science sector, as long as the state government is trying to send stem cell biologists to jail, we can't do that," Morrison said.