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Archive for Friday, March 24, 2006

House advances stem cell alternatives plan

March 24, 2006

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— Legislators who view embryonic stem cell research as human cloning won first-round approval Thursday in the House for a proposal to encourage alternatives in finding cures for diseases.

The measure would set up new state funds to finance research with adult stem cells or blood from newborns' umbilical cords, then grant a tax break to Kansans who contribute to either fund. Backers couldn't say how much the tax breaks would cost but hope to attract millions of dollars in contributions.

The House voted 71-46 to add the proposal to an unrelated bill. Another voice vote advanced the amended legislation to final action, which is expected today.

The developments came a day after the Senate rejected a proposal to prohibit taxpayer funding of research using embryonic stem cells.

"We still need to ban human cloning, but at the same time, we need to let people know where the success is," said sponsoring Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee. "It's not from human cloning. It's not from embryonic stem cells."

Embryonic stem cell research - and whether it represents human cloning - are hot topics in Missouri, where researchers and patient advocacy groups hope to place a proposed constitutional amendment protecting the research on the ballot.

Officials, researchers and philanthropists also hope to turn the Kansas City metropolitan area into a national hub for biosciences research. Last year, Kansas lawmakers approved legislation designed to stimulate related industry.

Pilcher Cook's proposal drew criticism because some saw it as an attempt to micromanage the Kansas Biosciences Authority, which the state set up last year to oversee efforts to stimulate new research and businesses.

She said she simply wants to make Kansas a leader in research with adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood.

However, the language of her proposal signaled her feelings about embryonic stem cell research, calling her effort to encourage alternatives "The Ethical Research Act."

House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, said he didn't object to her proposal but wished it had received more thorough study.

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