As reported by the New Haven Register, June 16, 2005.

Rell OKs Stem-Cell Research

By Abram Katz

Gov. M. Jodi Rell Wednesday committed Connecticut to a $100 million, 10-year research program to study stem cells, including experiments on human embryonic cells that the federal government refuses to finance.

Connecticut becomes the third state in the country to use its own money to fund the controversial research.

Rell ceremoniously signed the act at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington Wednesday afternoon as physicians, scientists and legislators looked on.

Scientists said that despite state spending, federal support will be necessary to explore the full medical potential of stem cells, which can develop into different types of tissues, including neurons and heart muscle.

"Stem cells hold tremendous promise," Rell said in prepared remarks. "Promise for the future of medicine, promise for the future of humanity, promise for the future of Connecticut. All these are contained within a tiny speck."

The new law, passed recently by the legislature, bans human cloning and sets guidelines for the way embryos, embryonic stem cells, unfertilized eggs and sperm are donated.

The federal government will fund research only on what it claims are 21 lines of human embryonic stem cells. Scientists contend that most of these cell lines are contaminated or otherwise unusable.

The Connecticut research fund will receive $20 million in 2006 and 2007 from the current budget surplus. The next eight years will depend on money from the Tobacco Settlement Fund.

Rell said the Connecticut program will attract investments and businesses to bolster a growing pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.

Dr. Robert J. Alpern, dean of the Yale University School of Medicine, said he is thrilled by the 10-year project.

"Originally the governor wanted $20 million for two years and a number of us said we needed a 10-year commitment," he said. "The key for us is to be able to recruit the best scientists, and they won’t come here for two years."

The Yale medical school is building a dedicated stem cell laboratory on Amistad Street in New Haven.

State money is a good start, Alpern said, but "There’s no question that the state money needs to be leveraged by other funds."

Marc Lalande, chairman of genetics and developmental biology at the UConn health center, said 10 years would give researchers a better idea of the therapeutic utility of stem cells.

Lalande said UConn wants to start research on human embryonic stem cells as rapidly as possible.

Federal research dollars will be necessary to advance all branches of stem cell science, he said.

Lalande said Connecticut’s $100 million program is good preparation for a renewed federal commitment.

An advisory committee will direct the state program. A committee of out-of-state experts will allocate research grants.

California plans to spend $3 billion on stem cell research, and New Jersey has approved $380 million.

"There are great breakthroughs ahead," Rell said.