Thursday, February 28, 2013

Measure would start stem cell research center at KU Med

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

A bill pushed by abortion opponents that would require the Kansas University Medical Center to establish a center that focuses on adult stem cell research will be debated in the Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 199, which would create the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, was authored by 22 conservative Republican senators, including Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita, Majority Leader Terry Bruce of Hutchinson, and Public Health and Welfare Chairwoman Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee.

"This has the potential of putting Kansas on the map in making actual patient therapies available," Pilcher-Cook said.

Gov. Sam Brownback also expressed support for the concept.

"Having an adult stem cell center is not only highly plausible, it's being done and used in many places around the world," he said.

"If Kansas could take a leadership position in that, it could be a highly useful thing for people to get treatments. There are number of different maladies now being treated by non-controversial stem cell treatments," he said. He added, "Let's see what develops in the process and in the bill."

The bill would prohibit the center from using embryonic stem cells or cells taken from aborted fetal tissue. Abortion opponents oppose human embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of the embryo.

Under the proposal, KU would appoint a director of the center who would be responsible for oversight of patient treatment and research with adult, cord blood and other non-embryonic stem cells.

The director could solicit grants, gifts and contributions. The bill also sets up a 13-member advisory board.

The center would require $1.1 million to renovate a lab and hire staff and $750,000 annually after that. But the funding has not been secured.

Several senators said they opposed the bill because the proposal didn't go through the normal appropriations process.

"This is really not the way that one puts together a first-rate, state-of-the-art research center," said state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

Kelly said the proposal for such a center should first come from the Medical Center and then through the Kansas Board of Regents.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, agreed, saying, "I'm hesitant because this hasn't come through any proper channels."

Kelly also said medical advisory boards traditionally are made up of experts in the field while a majority of the proposed advisory board to the center will be made up of political appointees.