Stem-cell research finds a home in Missouri

Helen Palmer Nov 8, 2006

I’m Helen Palmer at the Marketplace health desk in Boston.

Only one state in the country had stem cells on the ballot, that was Missouri. Amendment 2 passed. It makes stem cell research that’s legal under federal law also legal in the Show-Me State.

Doctors and patients launched the intiative to avert legislation banning stem-cell research. The amendment squeaked by with just 51% of the vote, despite $30 million spent on ads like this featuring Senator John Danforth.

SENATOR JOHN DANFORTH [TV ad]: I want cures to be found. And I want the scientists, the physicians who are here in our state of Missouri to participate in finding these cures.

Central to finding those cures is the Stower Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City. The founders of the American Century Investment company, Jim and Virginia Stower, fund the institute. They’re cancer survivors who’ve created a $2 billion endowment for health-care research. They planned a $300 million expansion of the institute, if the stem-cell amendment passed. Stower Institute director, William Neaves:.

WILLIAM NEAVES: Now that Amendment 2 has passed, the institute can resume its plans for growth here in Missouri.

University of Missouri-Columbia economist Joseph Haslag has put a dollar figure on that expansion over the next 25 years.

JOSEPH HASLAG: The addition to gross state product is about a billion-and-a-quarter dollars and about an additional $50 million in the present value of state tax revenues that will be collected just from Stowers alone.

Haslag reckons that infusion of R&D cash will also generate an additional $1.5 billion worth of economic activity, besides potential health savings. Stem-cell experts say cures are a distant promise, but the value of this amendment is immediate. Gail Pressman, co-author of a forthcoming book, “The Promise and Politics of Stem Cell Research”:

GAIL PRESSMAN: Missouri shows that the heart of America, the heart of the country, supports this research.

And that, says Pressman, should help head off attempts in other states to criminalize one of the most exciting new avenues for medical research.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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