WisBusiness: Wisconsinites on hand to watch Obama lift stem cell restrictions

By WisBusiness Staff

Wisconsin had a sizable contingent present for the White House signing ceremony marking the end of restrictions on stem cell research funding.

President Obama signed the executive order this morning, which allows increased federal money for the controversial research.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and UW-Madison Professor James Thomson, who pioneered the isolation of human embryonic stem cells more than 10 years ago, attended the East Room ceremony.

Baldwin commended Obama for the order, remarking in a statement that it “restores science to the independent status it deserves and requires — free from political interference.”

Thomson said the move “removes a stigma that has discouraged many bright young people from embarking on careers in stem cell research.”

He added: “We have many unanswered questions, and the only way to realize the full potential of embryonic stem cells and other types of stem cells is a level playing field and unfettered inquiry. … We are grateful to President Obama for the courage of his decision as well as for the broad bipartisan support our work has received in Washington.”

As many as four other UW researchers and officials were invited to attend as well, including: UW Medical School professors Tim Kamp and Clive Svendsen (who co-direct the university’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center); UW Medical School senior scientist and National Stem Cell Bank Director Derek Hei, and UW law professor Alta Charo, an adviser to the president on bioethics issues. A UW spokesman said he believed all four attended the ceremony.

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, noted the UW’s role in developing stem cell research, saying the executive order “gives hope to so many Americans eagerly awaiting the benefits that this research could provide.”