Stanford University To Establish $120 Million Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute
Stanford University yesterday announced that it will establish a $120 million research institute to examine the "overlapping biology" of cancer and stem cells, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The new Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine will "not clon[e] human embryos," but instead will conduct nuclear transfer, in which genetic material from an adult cell is transferred into a stem cell's "hollowed-out nucleus" and is then allowed to replicate, the university clarified in a statement released yesterday (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/11). The procedure is similar to that used in the cloning of human embryos, but the end result is not a human embryo or "cells for spare parts" like those developed for reproductive or therapeutic cloning, the Wall Street Journal reports. The institute plans to create new stem cell lines to study diseases, including autoimmune diseases, several types of cancers, diabetes, heart disease, allergies and neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Dr. Irving Weissman, who will head the institute, said, "The big difference isn't how you start but what you do with the cells. In therapeutic cloning, you want cells that are transplantable. In nuclear transfer, you're producing cell lines for research" (Chase et al., Wall Street Journal, 12/11).
The institute will be privately funded -- initially with a $12 million anonymous gift -- and will therefore avoid restrictions on embryonic stem cell research established by President Bush in August 2001 (Flam, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/11). The administration's policy on stem cell research allows federal funding only for experiments involving stem cells derived from embryos prior to the president's announcement (California Healthline, 9/23). Weissman said, "We know what the restrictions are. There's no law against what we're doing, and even though there's no federal funding, there might be some money for this in California that's not available elsewhere." Stanford's announcement underscores the "growing interest" in stem cell research in California following the September passage of a state law that "specifically encourages" stem cell research (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.