Since 1997, after the first mammal “Dolly” was cloned, the study of embryonic stem cells has been subject to fierce debate resulting in a myriad of Congressional efforts to block or allow it, without one piece of legislation signed into law. In 2001, the research was halted by the Bush administration; and in 2009, the Obama administration lifted the research limits. But a new lawsuit left the field more restricted than ever when in August, a Federal District Court issued an injunction blocking the research, with that ruling now on appeal.
05 November 2010
One of my very best and longtime friends, a former Hendrix colleague, now lives in Los Altos, CA, where he serves as Vice President of Development at Stanford University.
Last week Stanford Institutes of Medicine dedicated the largest stem cell and regenerative medical research facility in the nation - the Lorry I. Lokey Stem Cell Research Center. Five hundred and fifty researchers will be housed in the centre's 33 laboratories to allow for a wide range of stem cell projects focusing on medical conditions such as cancer, spinal cord injury and cardiovascular problems.
Scientists there also teach. Already 100 students, postdoctoral fellows, physicians and researchers have learned how to derive and care for stem cells. The new facility will expand this training program, possibly offering the first Ph.D. program in stem cell biology in the country.
The Stanford effort is supported by $75 million donated by philanthropist Lorry Lokey, $44 million in state funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and $200 million from private donations and university resources.
About the Philanthropist:
Lorry Lokey graduated from Stanford in 1949 with a B.A. degree in journalism. He then went on to work for United Press International and a string of west coast newspapers before going into the public relations field. In 1961, Lokey founded Business Wire, a news release service I’ve used too many times to count in my own PR career. The company would later become an international wire service with 30 offices around the world. In 2006, Lokey sold Business Wire to Warren Buffett for $600 million. Lokey is one of America’s leading philanthropists, named in 2006 as one of the top ten philanthropists in the US by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. I had the privilege of hearing Lokey speak to a Public Relations Society of America conference many years ago in his role with Business Wire. If I had known then what I know now about this very generous man with a vision for research and modern medicine . . .
About the Politics of Stem Cell Research:
The debate becomes even more complicated by differing opinions on the definition of when human life begins, even though stem cell research has quickly moved beyond the need for using discarded embryos because of new work in the field. Then throw in a mass amount of public confusion over human cloning. Hollywood has helped compound the imagination of evil with an army of clones found in a recent “Star Wars” movie, or the fear incited by films such as “The Boys of Brazil” or “The March of the Clones.”
However, California’s Proposition 71, approved by voters in 2004, cleared the way for stem cell research insulated from federal influence. As Bob Klein of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine declared at last week’s dedication of the Lokey Stem Cell Research facility, “The stem cell revolution has been launched in California, where science will be served by patients, not politics.”
About the Science of Stem Cell Research:
Despite the turmoil of politics and confusion about the science, Stanford will now forge ahead with aggressive and pioneering research to better understand life-threatening diseases. The millions of cells at Stanford continue to grow, living in flat plastic dishes, inside warm incubators where they multiply by the minute. They are a diverse collection, some from donated embryos; others are mature cells and tissues donated by sick or dying patients. The research goal is simple and admirable: to find the cause and cure for genetic and chronic disease. More specifically, to understand cell growth and development, to advance new drugs and medications and develop medical therapies that might cure serious diseases and disorders.
The many stem cell projects at Stanford include building tissues to correct damaged hearts, creating insulin producing cells to cure diabetes, finding a way to heal the damaged spinal column of quadriplegics, finding a cure for cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, cancer, birth defects, Parkinson’s disease, and much more.
As my friend Martin said, “While for some people stem cell research has a negative connotation, the life-saving potential that could emerge from this research is awe-inspiring.” While the debate will no doubt go on, brilliant scientists at Stanford Institutes of Medicine will continue their effort to research the prevention and treatment of life-threatening disease that effect so many of us and those we love.
At last week’s dedication, Lokey, now a jovial 83-year-old multi-millionaire with a passion for education, said he was excited by the potential of stem cell research to improve health and extend longevity. He told the crowd, "This life is too rewarding and too good to leave it early."
I agree with you, Mr. Lokey. Life can be very good and rewarding! Many thanks to you, and to Stanford University, for your tremendous contributions to the science of life.
Posted by Stacy Sells at 10:35 AM