On Monday when President Barack Obama signed an executive order lifting the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, you could almost feel the electricity emanating from Torrey Pines Mesa. And you could hear the outcry as well from those who believe that we’re heading down a path that should be blocked.
We stand on the president’s side and believe that the key to his action lies in his assertion that “promoting science isn’t just about providing resources - it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists … do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient.”
This should be good news to the private companies working in the field and the researchers at the Burnham Institute for Medical Reseaerch, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Scripps Research Institute and UCSD and for their combined efforts as the Sanford Consortium For Regenerative Medicine.
Travis Berggren, who heads the Stem Cell Core Facility at the Salk where a couple of dozen young researchers and faculty have been working with only private funding, the announcement gives them “more of a feeling of being supported from the top.”
And while there are no guarantees of funding as a result of Obama’s move, it at least opens doors for them that haven’t existed in the past eight years, he said.
It may also help keep some of the top young minds, who might have chosen other avenues, focused on work that could lead to cures for diseases like Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s and recovery for those who sustain spinal cord injuries.
Think: Good high-paying jobs coming to our community. Think: Good administrative support positions for our community.
Even with that in mind, we see the concerns of the other side and are hopeful that the president is right that with “proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided.”
He pledged to support the work “only when it is both scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted,” with strict guidelines that are rigorously enforced.
We believe our local scientific community understands the ethical issues raised by opponents and will carry the public’s trust in their minds as they work. If they cross the boundary lines, they deserve to be yanked back to a place where good science is done well.