Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Gurgling as Money and Brains Drain to the West

"The idea that if you throw money at it, people will come is true. Money talks." -- Zena Werb, a cell biologist at UCSF.

Just one quote from a fine overview of what California institutions are doing regarding the $3 billion stem cell bonanza in the Golden State.

Reporter Betsy Mason of the Contra Costa Times wrote:

"California's universities and research institutions are scrambling to position themselves for Prop. 71 funds. Nearly every institution in the state with its hands in the stem cell game or aspiring to join it is creating jobs for people experienced with the gifted little cells. Scientists are adamant that the healing potential of stem cells is real. But the stem cell field is itself in the embryonic stage and has very few senior scientists, perhaps just a couple of dozen, capable of heading a strong research group and training budding scientists. The draining sounds can already be heard gurgling through this small pool as California tries to satisfy its new appetite for the science.

"UCSF hopes to hire up to eight stem cell researchers in the next few years; Stanford is looking for five or six; UC Berkeley just hired one and is looking for at least one more; UCLA wants to fill its recently created stem cell institute with a dozen researchers; and UC San Diego hopes to bring on as many as 10.

"'Having a source of funds like this, which has suddenly come available to people only in the state of California, is a major benefit,' said Arnold Kriegstein, the director of UCSF's stem cell biology program. 'I get a lot of e-mail from people all over the world who are interested in coming to California.'

"The fierce competition within California for the top candidates will intensify as other states fight to keep their researchers. "The handful of people who are already doing this research can write their own ticket if they're good," said Randy Schekman, a stem cell researcher at UC Berkeley.

"Last month, Stanford managed to reel in two big catches, including Stefan Heller of Harvard. Heller was the first to identify adult stem cells in the inner ear of a mammal, and is at the top of his field."

Mason also quoted Mathew Lensch, an embryonic stem cell scientist at Harvard. "Now everybody asks if you're going to California. You want to talk about brain drain? The whole country's tilting to the west." Sphere: Related Content

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