Monday, December 26, 2005

California Stem Cell Director Stresses Speed

One of the members of the Oversight Committee of the California stem cell agency spoke of the need for "urgency" in finding stem cell therapies in an interview with a newspaper printed today.

The quest for speed is one of the problems at the heart of the Korean stem cell scandal, according to some scientists.

Joan Samuelson of Healdsburg, CA, an attorney and president of the Parkinson's Action Network, is the committee member who did a Q&A with the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. Given the nature of such Q&As, it is likely that she actually made her comments anywhere to a few days to a few weeks prior to their publication, probably at a time when the scandal was not as hot. The topic of Korea did not even come up in her printed remarks.

Nonetheless, one of the refrains heard from the patient advocates is the crying need for cures. Some, such as Samuelson, are living with diseases that could be alleviated through the results of stem cell research.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the interview:
"Prop. 71 seeks something that may be a first in biomedical history: not just research advances, but actual treatments and cures resulting from the investment of funds, and in a tight time frame. The National Institutes of Health, for example, spends about $30 billion each year in federal tax dollars to fund research, but requires no particular results.

"My 15 years of watching this process causes me to side with the scientists who believe that if every step is treated with great urgency, sharing of information, collaboration in approaches and adequate funding, that will start translating into the first treatments far sooner than they will if this process is left to chance."

"Several forces delay finding cures. For example, you might not get a cure for decades because researchers don't stick to the problem. They move on to something else, because they lose interest, because it's too hard, because there's no funding.

"But this won't happen at the institute because 10 of us wake up every morning saying, 'Please, God, let this succeed.' My vision is that the institute will be available to fund any piece of remaining research needed. We're going to have to work with the whole world."

The reference to "10 of us" is to the number of patient advocates on the board.

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