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Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act Passage Could Boost Research Along ‘Biotech Beach’

This past century has seen remarkable achievements in science and medicine led by a biotechnology industry that has built and sustained a proud heritage of scientific exploration, discovery and innovation.

At the heart of this effort is a collaboration of scientists, researchers and businesses who call the 50th Congressional District their home.

Known as Biotech Beach, this region’s reputation as a biotech hub has attracted a number of world-class scientists, researchers and experts to San Diego.

As co-chairman of the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus, I understand the importance for the federal government to match its commitment to advancement with the resources needed to keep pace with the work of these researchers and scientists.

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Two Measures

At the start of the 110th Congress, two measures were considered that could leave a lasting impact: H.R. 3, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, and H.R. 4, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act.

Stem cell research ushered in a new era in biotech and research development.

The only reservation I had about stem cell research involved “fetal farming,” or the practice of creating, acquiring or trafficking tissue derived from a human embryo grown specifically for tissue harvesting.

That concern was addressed last year when President Bush signed legislation into law prohibiting that process and there is no reason now why we should not aggressively move ahead with research that can lead to innovative medical science breakthroughs.

Under current policy, federal research funds can only be used on a small number of embryonic stem cell lines that were in existence prior to Aug. 9, 2001.

Of those, only 21 lines qualified for use as other lines were contaminated or inferior to newer, more promising lines.

For premier research entities such as the Burnham Institute, Scripps Research Institute and UC San Diego, passage of H.R. 3 could mean access to new stem cells that would help scientists accelerate the search for cures to our most debilitating diseases.


Proud Co-Sponsor

I was proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act because this legislation aims to maximize the benefits of the loss of spare or surplus embryos that would otherwise be discarded and thrown away.

Another measure brought forward was H.R. 4, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act.

The only way our biotech industry can continue to thrive is if we foster an environment that includes less restriction, and more opportunities and incentives for investing in our region.

Unfortunately, H.R. 4 would have stifled innovation and investment in this critical industry by imposing price caps on life-saving medicines.

The biotech industry must continue to be at the forefront of this Congress’ agenda.

San Diego’s renaissance demonstrates what can happen when science and medicine have the support of enterprise and investment.


Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-San Diego, is co-chairman of the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus and serves on the House Committee on Science and Technology.


Editor’s Note: The original version of this commentary misstated Rep. Brian Bilbray’s party affiliation. It has been corrected in this version.

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