CHICAGO - Just one day after President George Bush vetoed bipartisan legislation that would expand scientists' access to new, healthy uncontaminated stem cell lines, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced he is directing $5 million to stem cell research in Illinois in fiscal year 2007. For the second year in a row, the Governor is using his executive authority to bypass stalemates in Springfield and Washington, D.C, and ensure stem cell research continues in Illinois.
“President Bush’s action yesterday was a clear indication that stem cell research will get no support from Washington as long as he occupies the White House. And the Illinois General Assembly has yet to back a plan that would provide significant, ongoing support for stem cell research. It would be wrong to ask sick and injured people and their loved ones to wait for the tides in Springfield and Washington to change before research into potentially life-saving cures can move forward. That’s why I am directing $5 million in state funds this fiscal year to continue supporting the research being done. Investing in research that can save lives and prevent serious illnesses is more than a sound public health strategy, it’s our moral obligation,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Gov. Blagojevich is allocating $5 million of state funds from an administrative line in the Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (HFS) budget to fund stem cell research in Illinois. Recipients will be selected from proposals that were previously submitted, but not funded, based on the recommendations from an outside panel of stem cell research experts and bioethicists that advised the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI) in its first grant-making process.
This past April, the Governor was joined by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes in announcing the first ten grants worth a total of $10 million for life-saving stem cell research at several Illinois hospitals and research institutions.
“Investing in stem cell research has the potential of saving thousands of lives now and in the future,” said Lt. Gov. Quinn.
“Let’s be very clear here. The states did not ask for this responsibility, but the President’s action, in direct conflict with the wishes of a large majority of Americans, has forced us to take on what rightly should be the federal government’s job of funding this life-saving research,” said Hynes. “I am grateful that Governor Blagojevich has had the courage to act.”
Last summer by Executive Order, Governor Blagojevich and Comptroller Dan Hynes created the IRMI, making Illinois the first state in the Midwest, and only the fourth state in the nation, to commit public funds to stem cell research. The IRMI program is designed to issue grants for stem cell research to study therapies, protocols, medical procedures, possible cures for, and potential mitigations of major diseases, injuries, and orphan diseases; to support all stages of the process of developing cures from laboratory research through successful clinical trials; and to establish the appropriate regulatory standards for research and facilities development.
“Stem cell research has the potential to yield groundbreaking medical advancements for many debilitating diseases. By supporting work in this field, we can help ensure that we are building capacity and expertise here in Illinois in one of the most important areas of research to date,” said Dr. Eric Whitaker, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Researching and studying stem cells allows scientists and doctors to better understand what causes serious medical illnesses and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, spinal cord injury, stroke, and heart disease, in hopes of discovering new ways to treat or even cure them. Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into many different types of healthy new cells in the body. As described by the National Institutes of Health, they act like an internal repair system for the body. Stem cells can divide to replenish other cells for as long as the body is alive. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell like a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
Studying stem cells allows doctors to analyze how cells transform into other cells. Many of the most serious illnesses or birth defects are caused by problems during the transformation process. Understanding the process better may help doctors discover how to prevent, treat or cure illnesses and conditions.