House approves bill requiring KU Medical Center to establish stem cell research center

? A bill supported by abortion opponents that would require the Kansas University Medical Center to start a center on adult stem cell research was approved by the House on Tuesday.

State Rep. David Crum, R-Augusta, described the bill as “pro-life,” in that adult stem cell research has the “potential to establish cures that improve the quality of life and extend life.”

But opponents of Senate Bill 199 said legislators shouldn’t mandate KU start a center without any state funding, while many of those same legislators also voted to cut funding to the school in the state appropriations bill.

And the opponents said KU did not ask for the bill and that traditionally the startup of a research and treatment center requires a lengthy planning process that brings together school leaders, researchers and the business community before approaching the Legislature.

“We are in uncharted territory,” state Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, said.

“Stem cell research and therapy is incredibly complex,” Bollier said. “The doctors and researchers who are involved know what they are doing and they don’t need us to set up a specific stem cell treatment center.”

Bollier tried to add an amendment to the bill that she said was needed to tighten up legal issues on the research, but her proposal failed, 40-74.

State Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit, said it was proper for the Legislature to direct universities.

“Maybe this would never happen because of the political questions involved,” Concannon said. “The stem cell center would possibly never be built if not for the direction of the state.”

The bill, approved 90-32, would require the KU Medical Center to establish the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center to advance adult, cord blood and related stem cell therapies.

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. 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 provided by the Legislature.

Supporters of the bill said KU could solicit grants, gifts and contributions.

An amendment to the bill added in the House means it will go back to the Senate for further consideration but could possibly be agreed to and sent to Gov. Sam Brownback, who has said he supports the proposal.