NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Why Shouldn't Private Sector Lead in Stem Cell Research?

August 28, 2001

The recent debate on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research more or less ignored the question of whether government or the private sector could do a better job in that field, critics are pointing out.

The evidence suggests that private firms are better positioned to develop cures for a host of illnesses using stem cell technologies.

  • In the race to decode the human genome, the private company Celera quickly outdistanced the lumbering efforts of the National Institutes of Health and completed the project last year -- and although the NIH took partial credit for the achievement, its own deadline had been set at 2005.
  • Critics charge that it didn't make sense for the government to spend billions of dollars on the quest, when Celera was perfectly willing to undertake the costs and risks.
  • Virtually all new drugs come from private pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that spend billions of dollars on research because they know they can profit from their successes.
  • A number of private biotech companies -- such as Advanced Cell Technology and Geron -- are seeking to play the same role in stem cell research that Celera successfully played in mapping the human genome.

Many experts suggest they may be better able to do so than government-funded projects -- because of the restrictions imposed by President Bush on federally-funded research.

Source: Robert Oldham (Cancer Therapeutics Inc.), "Stem Cells: Private Sector Can Do It Better," Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2001.

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