Testimony before the Maryland Senate

Testimony of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Before the Maryland Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

Regarding Senate Bill 751
The Maryland Stem Cell Research Act of 2005

Madam Chair and members for the committee, thank you for the opportunity
to present testimony in support of Senate Bill 751, the Maryland Stem Cell
Research Act of 2005.

BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic
institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50
U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research
and development of health care, agriculture, industrial and environmental
biotechnology products. In Maryland, we work closely with the Technology
Council of Maryland to represent the 300 biotechnology and life science
companies and nearly 20,000 employees working to develop cures for
patients suffering from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s and
Alzheimer’s diseased as well as many others.

Medical research has taken quantum leaps in the past decade. Scientists are
identifying and developing innovative cures to deadly and debilitating
diseases. According the National Institutes of Health and the National
Academies of Science, human embryonic stem (HES) cells have shown
incredible promise toward developing breakthrough treatments for a variety
of intractable diseases including various cancers, kidney disease, diabetes,
hepatitis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease and
many other diseases. In fact, recent developments have demonstrated that
human embryonic stem cells can used to create insulin-producing cells that
might help cure type-1 diabetes.

Senate Bill 751 will spur this research through a specific authorization and
much needed funding. It will also help facilitate the voluntary donation of
excess fertilized eggs for stem cell research. In addition, the bill also
protects the right of scientists to use somatic cell nuclear transfer technology
for the derivation of HES cells. This innovative process may some day
improve treatments, minimizing the risk of rejection of new cells and tissue
because it uses an individual's own cells to treat specific diseases.
BIO is committed to the socially responsible use of biotechnology to save or
improve lives. We recognize that there are moral and ethical concerns
surrounding human embryonic research. This bill strikes an appropriate
balance by encouraging potentially life saving research to advance under a
carefully constructed regulatory scheme. Senate Bill 751 will ensure that
researchers in Maryland can employ this valuable technology.

Stem cells are unique in that they can become any cell in the body. Working
with these cells, scientists can harness “undifferentiated” human stem cells
and direct them to become a variety of specialized cells. Once enough
specialized cells have been developed they can then be used to repair spinal
cord injuries; regenerate damaged brain cells for people suffering from
Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease; regenerate muscle or organ tissue as
well as skin cells to treat burn victims. The benefit of this type of
therapeutic cloning may someday allow doctors to treat patients suffering
from these maladies with cells that are the genetic duplicates of the patients’
own damaged cells. This could significantly reduce rejection issues
common with donor cells or organ transplants.

We are not alone in our support for preserving all forms of stem cell
research. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in a recent report
concluded:
“The scientific and medical considerations that justify a ban on human
reproductive cloning at this time are not applicable to nuclear transplantation
to produce stem cells. Because of the considerable potential for developing
new medical therapies to treat life-threatening diseases and advancing
biomedical knowledge, the panel supported the conclusion of a previous
National Academies’ report—Stem Cells and the Future of Regenerative
Medicine—that recommends that biomedical research using nuclear
transplantation to produce stem cells be permitted.”

Maryland's position as a center of excellence for biotechnology research is
beyond the reach of many states. However, there are states that are
aggressively pursuing legislation to attract biotechnology companies.
California, the state with the largest biotechnology industry presence in the
country, recognizes the promise of this technology. The state became the
first in the nation to create a safe harbor for all forms of stem cell research,
and with the passage for Proposition 71, the state will allocate $3 billion to
stem cell research over the next 10 years. Nearly a dozen states are now
considering legislation to either create safe harbors and/or allocate funding
for stem cell research. The passage of Senate Bill 751 will further cement
the state's reputation as a preeminent leader in biomedicine and
biotechnology.

Maryland has always been a staunch supporter of the advancement of
biomedical research and promoting industry growth. Promoting the very
promising area of stem cell research is imperative if the state is to continue
to hold its competitive advantage over other states in the country. We
strongly urge you to give a favorable report to Senate Bill 751.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony today. Please feel
free to contact me if you have any questions or need additional information.

Respectfully Submitted,

Patrick M. Kelly
Vice President, State Government Relations
Biotechnology Industry Organization