BIO Position on Stem Cell Research

President-Elect George W. Bush
Bush-Cheney Transition Headquarters
1800 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20270

Dear President-Elect Bush:

The undersigned 123 patient, research, and academic institutions, write to express their strong support for federal funding of research using human pluripotent stem cells. Our organizations are committed to working with you to advance this potentially life-saving research.

The discovery of pluripotent stem cells may be the single most important scientific and medical breakthrough in the past decade or more. This work could impact the lives of millions of Americans suffering from many of humanity's most devastating illnesses, including Alzheimer's disease, ALS, heart disease, cancer, spinal cord injury and diabetes. There is hope that pluripotent stem cell research will result in new treatments and cures for many of these diseases and disabilities.

As you know, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently issued Guidelines for Research Involving Human Pluripotent Stem Cells, which enable scientists to conduct stem cell research within the constraints of careful federal oversight and standards. It is likely that funding from the NIH will unleash the full capability of the biomedical research workforce to bring the remarkable potential of human pluripotent stem cells to fruition.

A vocal minority has argued that adult stem cells will be sufficient to pursue treatments or cures for disease. But, the prevailing expert scientific opinion is that it is far too early to know if adult stem cells have the same potential as embryonic stem cells. For diseases that prove not to be treatable with adult stem cells, impeding human pluripotent stem cell research risks unnecessary delay for patients who may die or endure needless suffering while the effectiveness of adult stem cells is evaluated.

We are particularly concerned that those who cite the promise of adult stem cell research do so without full understanding of the limitations and preliminary nature of much of this research. Thus, while some have argued that "adult stem cells" are of equivalent promise to embryonic cells, it is far too early to know if this claim is correct. We do not know now, nor are we likely to know in the near future, whether adult stem cells have the same potential as embryonic stem cells, whether they can be gathered in sufficient quantities to treat disease, or whether they can grow indefinitely as can embryonic stem cells. It is likely to take years to discover whether adult stem cells will be useful for treating many diseases that may be treatable sooner with embryonic stem cells. It is critical that we neither prohibit nor hinder research in any of these areas.

In contrast to work with adult cells, the enormous promise and potential therapeutic value of human embryonic stem cells is based on a substantial body of research generated over the past 20 years with mouse embryonic stem cells. This research and the existing work on human embryonic stem cells strongly suggest that embryonic stem cells are capable of generating many, if not all, of the cell types that make up a human organism, but that these cells by themselves

cannot form an adult organism. Most important, mouse embryonic stem cells have been used in a variety of "proof of therapeutic principle" experiments in several animal models of human disease. For example, these cells appear to be able to produce neural progenitors that can repair spinal cord damage and reconstitute various types of brain cells. If reproducible with human embryonic stem cells, we may be able to treat Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. We may also be able to produce bone marrow cells to treat cancer and other diseases, and pancreatic cells to alleviate diabetes. In fact, we may be on the verge of a new era of medicine, one in which cell therapy could help restore normal function to a variety of affected tissues.

The majority of Americans support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. A nationwide poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International found that 74% of those queried favor funding of stem cell research by the NIH. This is born out by strong bipartisan congressional support for this research from all political perspectives. It is also important to note that while private firms are already conducting research on pluripotent stem cells, these firms are limited in number, which limits the pace of discovery.

While we recognize the legitimate issues raised by this research, it is also true that the embryonic stem cells being used in research will be discarded in any case. Under these circumstances, it would be tragic to waste this opportunity to pursue the work that can potentially help millions of people in need. Ethical safeguards developed by the NIH respect both the moral status of the embryo and public sensitivity to this issue, while ensuring that progress in critical medical research continues. Given the great hope that stem cell research provides to those who are suffering or dying from devastating illnesses, we urge you to allow this research to move forward with federal support.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you or your advisors to discuss this critical issue. Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Alliance for Aging Research
The ALS Association
American Academy of Optometry
American Association of Anatomists
American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
American Brain Tumor Association
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
The American Foundation for AIDS Research
American Gastroenterological Association
The American Infertility Association
American Liver Foundation
American Medical Foundation
American Pediatric Society
The American Physiological Society
American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
The American Society for Cell Biology
American Society for Microbiology
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
American Society of Hematology
American Society of Human Genetics
Association of American Cancer Institutes
Association of American Medical Colleges
Association of American Universities
Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology
Association of Independent Research Institutes
Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs
Association of Professors of Human and Medical Genetics
Association of Professors of Medicine
Association of Subspecialty Professors
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Bay Area Bioscience Center
Biotechnology Industry Organization
Boston University School of Medicine
The Brain Tumor Society
California Institute of Technology
Cancer Care
The Cancer Research Foundation of America
Cancer Treatment Research Foundation
Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation
Cedars-Sinai Health System
Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation
Coalition of Advocates for Research on the Eye (CARE)
Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative Groups
Colorectal Cancer Network
Columbia University
Cooley's Anemia Foundation
Coriell Institute for Medical Research
Council of the Radiation Research Society (RRS)
Duke University
Duke University Medical Center
Emory University
The Endocrine Society
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Friends of the National institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Genetic Alliance
The Genome Action Coalition (TGAC)
Hope for ALS
International Foundation for Anticancer Drug Discovery (IFADD)
International Longevity Center
International Myeloma Foundation
Interstitial Cystitis Association
Jeffrey Modell Foundation
Jacob's Cure
The Johns Hopkins University
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
The Kidney Cancer Association
Lankenau Institute for Medical Research
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Lymphoma Research Foundation of America
Medical College of Wisconsin
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
NAPE, Inc.
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
National Brain Tumor Foundation
The National Caucus of Basic Biomedical Science Chairs
National Childhood Cancer Foundation
The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
National Eczema Association for Science and Education (NEASE)
National Eczema Association Board of Directors
National Health Council
National Patient Advocate Foundation
National Pemphigus Foundation
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
National Vitiligo Foundation
Neurofibromatosis, Inc., Mass Bay Area
New York University School of Medicine
Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Parkinson’s Action Network
Patients' Cure
Project A.L.S.
The Protein Society
PXE International
Radiation Research Society (RRS)
Research!America
School of Optometry, University of California Berkeley
Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology
Society for Pediatric Research
Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
Society for Women's Health Research
Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation
St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center
Sturge-Weber Foundation
SUNY Upstate Medical University
Texas Neurofibromatosis Foundation
Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance
Tulane University
University of California - San Diego
University of Southern California
University of Chicago
University of Florida Health Science Center
University of Minnesota
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
University of Rochester Medical Center
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Xeroderma Pigmentosum Society
Washington University in St. Louis
WiCell Research Institute
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation
Wisconsin Association for Biomedical Research & Education