LANSING – Jennifer Granholm delivered a State of the State address yesterday that had major implications for the University’s stem cell research programs.
Granholm called for less restrictive laws regulating embryonic stem cell research to attract more scientists to the state and develop treatments for diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s.
“Talented researchers and businesses around the world are working right now on those cures, but we can’t recruit them to Michigan to do their work because of the limits Michigan law puts on them,” Granholm said.
Michigan isn’t just having a tough time attracting researchers, it’s having a tough time keeping them. Medical Prof. Michael Clarke, a prominent stem cell researcher, left the University last fall for Stanford University. Other states’ less restrictive laws and funding priorities have heightened competition for the University’s researchers.
Granholm said she wants the Legislature to pass three bills sponsored by Rep. Andrew Meisner (D-Ferndale), who is also a University alum.
Meisner said the package would improve the health of Michigan’s economy and its residents.
“It would help the University keep its researchers and push ahead on research,” he said. “It’s currently legal for (surplus in vitro) embryos to be thrown out, but it’s not legal for brilliant researchers to rescue them and use them to cure Parkinson’s or diabetes.”
Meisner’s bills were introduced to the House Committee on Health Policy last June, but the bills were never brought to a vote in the House.
Granholm breathed new life into the bills when she pressed for their passage, but Republicans are hesitant to endorse the proposals.
Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema (R-Wyoming) said the party will consider Meisner’s bills, but he expressed moral concerns about their implications.
“If you’re asking me at the end of the day if I’m wiling to make moral and ethical compromises so that I can keep a professor in Ann Arbor instead of California, I’m not willing to do that,” he said after the governor’s address.
Speaker of the House Craig DeRoche (R-Novi) said he did not think the state’s laws have hindered research. After Clarke’s departure, DeRoche said he spoke to the University Board of Regents, who told him the researcher’s decision to leave the University was not simply the result of the state’s restrictions.
Granholm devoted most of the address to her economic agenda, which includes tax cuts, infrastructure projects and efforts to keep and attract business.
Granholm also wants to give all students who are state residents $4,000 after finishing two years of college. The proposal would likely not affect students currently enrolled in college.