WisBusiness: State pledges to fight stem cell research restriction

By Andy Szal


Gov. Jim Doyle said Wisconsin will go to “any court that they let us into” to challenge last month’s injunction on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

In a Tuesday press conference at UW-Madison’s Waisman Center, Doyle pledged the state would participate in the federal government’s appeals court challenge and called on Congress to repeal the Dicker-Wickey amendment cited in Judge Royce Lamberth’s ruling.

Doyle said he believes Lamberth erred in suspending the funding, adding that judges typically issue injunctions to maintain the status quo until other legal issues are resolved. The governor, joined by UW administrators and scientists, said the ruling instead rolls back the status quo and puts Wisconsin’s stem cell industry in grave jeopardy.

“The harm that could be done to us probably exceeds any state in the country,” Doyle said, noting that states such as California and Massachusetts can utilize private funding to continue working with embryonic stem cells. Waisman Center officials said two federal grants for stem cell research worth about $400,000 are already on hold since the ruling, and UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin said funding could also be at stake throughout the campus.

A news release from the university said 22 UW-Madison researchers with labs employing more than 100 people and teaching more than 50 graduate students may have to put down work driven by $7.3 million in funding during 2010 (and another $2 million already spent in the 2011 fiscal year).

“It penalizes the researchers, but I don’t think they are the most important ones,” Tim Kamp, a professor of medicine and director of the university’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, said in the release. “It penalizes taxpayers, who have invested so much in this research. And it penalizes patients who have been waiting so long for a treatment.”

Doyle added that other countries are already looking to Wisconsin’s universities and start-up companies to pry away researchers, which would only be made easier by a lack of government support.

“It isn’t just that they’re going to Stanford or Harvard or MIT,” Doyle said of UW researchers. “People come here from all over the world to do this research.”

Doyle said his legal team had discussed the state’s options with the Department of Justice, but didn’t elaborate on whether Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen would file amicus briefs on behalf of the state.

“One way or another, we’re going to make sure Wisconsin’s voice is heard on this,” the governor said.

DOJ spokesman Bill Cosh confirmed that the governor’s office has been in contact with the agency, but had no further comment.