Schwarzenegger allocates state funds for stem cell research

PALO ALTO, Calif. (MCT) — The first $45 million in state money for stem cell research has been allocated to medical researchers, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on Friday.

The money is part of the state’s commitment to stem cell research to treat or cure spinal cord injuries and diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Voters authorized Proposition 71, a $3 billion bond for stem cell research, in November 2004. Despite challenges to the initiative, the governor authorized the state in July 2006 to issue a loan of up to $150 million for stem cell research.

“Today we are making history,” Schwarzenegger said. “(Scientists) are opening up possibilities that a few years ago we could only imagine. They are our new action heroes.”

Schwarzenegger talked about the millions of people who would benefit from stem cell research, including his father-in-law, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

“The initial grants are important because we all know that we cannot afford to wait when it comes to advancing potentially life-saving science,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Schwarzenegger made the announcement in Burlingame, Calif., where the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s (CIRM) board met to decide how to allocate the money. The institute was established in 2005 as a state agency to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research and research facilities.

“In one day, California made a dramatic step forward,” said Robert Klein, chairman of CIRM’s board, the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee. “Today we have passed the seed money.”

After President George Bush vetoed federal stem cell legislation in July, Schwarzenegger came to the rescue with the $150 million, Klein added.

Bush cited concerns that the legislation would “fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos” for stem cell research. In a statement released by the White House, the president said he is not opposed to human embryonic stem cell research derived from embryos that have already been destroyed.

When asked about Bush’s opposition to stem cell research, Schwarzenegger said, “I am just interested in the decisions we make here.”

The $150 million is $18 million more than what China will spend on stem cell research in the next five years, and it far exceeds the $72.7 million the British government contributed to such research from 2004 to 2006, stated a press release from the governor’s office.

Roman Reed, 32, joined the governor Friday. He has been confined to a wheelchair since he was injured playing football at age 19. He told the audience that one day he dreams of being able to hold his son high.

“What gets me through it is hope,” Reed said. “Stem cells are going to get me out of this chair.”