As reported by the Westchester County Business Journal, March 25, 2008.

State Seeks Big Stem Cell Meeting

Pitch Comes in Wake of UConn Cartilage Advance


Filed under the category of “be careful what you wish for,” Connecticut legislators hope to free up funding to host an international convention for scientists and policymakers on the topic of embryonic stem cell research.

The science has drawn fire for scientists’ use of frozen human embryos to obtain stem cells, and on fears their work could lead to human cloning.

In 2005, Connecticut passed a resolution to spend $100 million on stem cell research over a 10-year span, and the state is beginning to see early fruit from $4 million spent to date.

In January, University of Connecticut researches used embryonic stem cells to create cartilage tissue, a process that might offer a way to cure degenerative joint conditions.

And Science magazine cited Yale University researcher Haifan Lin for making one of the top 10 stem cell discoveries of 2006. Lin divined how a certain class of stem cells divide, a possible step for building research stocks without using embryos.

The Connecticut General Assembly’s commerce committee also hopes to pick up the tab for local biotechnology representatives to attend the BIO International Convention, scheduled to be held this summer in San Diego and the following year in Atlanta.

More than 22,000 people attended BIO International 2007 in Boston. Companies featured at the Connecticut pavilion included Aptuit Inc. of Greenwich; Cara Therapeutics of Shelton; and Mannkind Pharmaceuticals, which has a laboratory in Danbury.

The sponsoring Biotechnology Industry Organization prepared for thousands of protesters, in keeping with its experience at previous conventions, but less than 200 turned out and police did not make any arrests.

A stem-cell convention would have the added benefit of generating business for a Connecticut conference venue, perhaps the adolescent Connecticut Convention Center.

Symposiums addressing the narrow topic of stem-cell research have proven much smaller than the BIO International confabs. Wisconsin holds its third-annual stem-cell confab next month, expecting more than 1,000 participants; Michigan follows suit in May with its first such conference.

In 2006, a year after its launch, the New York Stem Cell Foundation opened a lab in New York City to serve as a “safe haven” soscientists from throughout the east can conduct research. The group noted new Gov. David Paterson has been a vocal proponent of the science, establishing the Empire State Stem Cell Board to support and promote the state’s work.

By hosting a convention, Connecticut would be able to show off its own facilities to potential investors and developers. In a separate bill sparked by an overseas trip, legislators want to add $8 million to the state’s bioscience facilities fund, after touring a stem-cell research facility in New Castle, England.

“One of the things that particularly impressed the delegation was an in-vitro fertilization clinic in New Castle that was connected directly to university stem-cell research laboratories,” said Paul Pescatello, president of Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE). “Both the clinic and the labs were built according to good manufacturing principles. It’s a federal term meaning that stem cell lines created in such facilities when ready can be used directly in human trials. This saves time, avoiding the need to recreate stem cell lines. It would allow the fruits of Connecticut stem cell research to become treatments and cures sooner.”