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- Gov. Jim Doyle on Monday expressed hope for the future of stem cell research, lauding Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's recent decision to support removal of some of the current limitations on such research.
Doyle made his comments at the groundbreaking of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Interdisciplinary Research Complex, where he also praised Wisconsin's medical development scene.
In remarks to a crowd of physicians and university officials, Doyle said that he hopes Frist's new stand on stem cell research would place more senators on the side of relaxed research restrictions.
Such support would be needed to override President Bush's expected veto of a House bill that would loosen the president's 2001 restrictions on funding research using stem cells from days-old embryos. A two-thirds majority in the Senate is needed to override a presidential veto.
"I am pleased Sen. Frist has joined Republicans and Democrats in supporting this life-saving research," Doyle said, saying Frist's comments on the Senate floor in support of science are encouraging for research growth.
Doyle added that Frist's support is especially important to Wisconsin, whose biotechnology firms contribute $5 million to the state each year and account for at least 20,000 jobs. While Wisconsin researchers work within federal limits and ethical standards, it would take a change of policy to give the issue further momentum.
"It defies common sense that four small cells in a dish cannot be used to help children suffering from diabetes," Doyle said. "This logic gets very hard for opponents to justify."
Frist's Friday Senate speech explaining his position can be found at his Senate website
Doyle was one of five speakers at UW Hospital and Clinics to officially begin the construction of the Interdisciplinary Research Complex, the latest building constructed under the HealthStar initiative. The IRC will be dedicated to building connections with researchers and bring their research into direct clinical care.
"We're creating a new taxonomy of science, a new way of collaborating
that will change the tone of science in the next five years," said Paul DeLuca, vice dean of the UW Medical School.
The complex is expected to consist of three towers - with the first scheduled for completion in 2008 - and will have research facilities for oncology, imaging science, cardiovascular research, stem cells, regenerative and molecular medicine. The $134 million project has been funded by the UW Foundation and the state, with help from private donors such as GE Electric and the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation.
John Wiley, chancellor of UW-Madison, said the IRC will work closely with other proposed research facilities such as the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. He predicted most of the original research and lab work would take place at the WID, and then would move over to the IRC for "transitional research" so the results could be implemented in a clinical setting.
The IRC will be valuable in further development of stem cells, Doyle said, especially if the bill expands the existing lines. He criticized how researchers are forced to work in a "parallel labs" situation, where they do research in one lab using federal funding but have to use a second independent lab if their work moves outside the funding limits.
In the IRC, Doyle said, researchers would have all the resources and connections necessary to do their jobs. They will be able to move their research straight into treatment options, which will in turn lead to improved patient health and more energy for the next project.
"There's hardly a better win-win situation than groundbreaking an institute that will save lives and will contribute to the economic growth of Wisconsin," Doyle said. "This is a step to ensure Wisconsin remains a leader in the forefront of medical research."