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NY Gov. Paterson renews commitment to stem cell research in visit to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Cold Spring Harbor, NY -- On a visit to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Thursday afternoon, New York Governor David A. Paterson pledged his continuing support for stem cell research after receiving a briefing from a panel of Long Island scientists engaged in projects involving stem cells.

The Governor recalled that in January 2005, in his first press conference after being elected New York's lieutenant governor, he publicly committed himself to the advance of stem cell research in New York; it would be one of his top four priorities, he stated at that time. The others were the development of alternative energy sources, the problem of domestic violence, and the promotion of business enterprises run by women and members of minority groups. His commitment to stem cell research and the other priorities, he affirmed yesterday, have not changed in the 17 months since he became governor.

"We have a lot of plans that have undergone reprocessing because of the continuing financial and fiscal crises, but we're continuing to fund stem cell research at the state level at a rate of between $50 million and $60 million per year," Paterson said. The Governor has spearheaded an effort to commit $600 million in state funds over the next decade to advance stem cell science within the state. Since 2008, over $165 million has been allocated by the Empire State Stem Cell Board.

The Governor's visit to CSHL provided an opportunity for him to receive briefings from CSHL President Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., and four faculty scientists: Drs. Linda Van Aelst, Grigori Enikolopov and Marja Timmermans, and Clinical Fellow Johannes Zuber, M.D.

Gov. Paterson, who was joined by State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., who chairs the Empire State Stem Cell Board, and by Assemblyman Charles D. Levine of Glen Cove, also heard from Dr. Samuel Stanley, President of Stony Brook University and Dr. Ira S. Cohen, a Stony Brook cardiologist and researcher. The discussion was held in Hawkins Lecture Hall in the Wendt Family Laboratory, one of six structures comprising CSHL's new Hillside Laboratories complex.

The Governor remarked to the scientists present, "The work on stem cells has moved ahead so rapidly. Where we stand now, as reflected in your briefing today, is so palpably beyond where the science of stems cells was only three years ago. At that time the talk was mainly about how to grow stem cells. Now you are able to work with them and use them in complex research projects with potentially profound applications for human health. It makes me wonder, just a few years into this research, where we'll be in five or six years."

President Stillman concurred. "Stem cell research is one of the most rapidly changing fields in science today. And what is extraordinary is that the breakthroughs are coming from people who have brought expertise from other fields into this relatively new one." Stillman stressed the importance of sustaining healthy levels of support for basic research, which he said is among the chief factors "enabling great leaps forward, in this and other scientific fields."

CSHL has received over $2.3 million from New York State for several stem cell-related projects, as well as a special microscope and a training program for stem cell researchers. The Laboratory's overarching goal in stem cell work is to determine the molecular mechanisms regulating stem cell activity. This is deemed critical in the development of future therapies targeting these cells. While stem cell-directed therapy has great future potential in the treatment of human illnesses, research at CSHL at present does not involve human stem cells.

Stillman thanked Gov. Paterson for his visit. "It's quite extraordinary to be able to sit down and talk science with the governor of the state in which you work," he said, "and, I should add, a very knowledgeable one with a strong interest in research, and specifically, in stem cell research."


Contact: Peter Tarr
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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