Grants for Stem Cell Research Favor Ethical Approaches

Eugene C. Tarne  

The Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund (MSCRF) has awarded two rounds of grants since the Charlotte Lozier Institute last analyzed the Fund’s pattern of grant making for stem cell research, in the fall of 2013.[1]


That study found that since MSCRF first began awarding grants in 2007, its pattern of giving shifted over the years from strongly favoring projects focusing on ethically contentious human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR) to projects focusing on ethically non-contentious adult stem cells and other non-embryonic stem cell research.  Thus, for its first round of grants in 2007, MSRF awarded just $2.4 million to 4 projects using adult stem cells, but more than twice that amount—$5.21 million—for 11 projects using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs).


But by 2013 this pattern had been dramatically reversed: fully 90 percent—28 of 31 grants—went toward non-embryonic stem cell research projects, while only one hESCR project received funding.[2]


MSCRF’s most recent rounds of grants, for 2014 and 2015, strongly reinforce this pattern.


In 2014, MSCRF awarded just over $10 million in grants but did not fund any research project using hESCs alone.  Of 30 projects to receive grants, two used both hESCS and iPSCs, while three others went for research projects to improve techniques for conducting stem cell research generically.  The remaining 25 grants went to adult, induced pluripotent and other non-embryonic stem cell research projects.


In 2015, MSCRF awarded over $9 million in grants to 29 research projects.  A clear majority of those grants—25 total—went to research projects using adult and non-embryonic induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), while only two went to projects using hESCs.[3]


As noted in Lozier’s previous study of MSCRF grant-making, Maryland is home to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, one of the nation’s leading institutions for stem cell research.  Thus, how Maryland chooses to fund stem cell research can be an important indicator of where the field in general is headed.


And that direction is clearly toward ethically non-contentious adult and other non-embryonic stem cell research and away from the morally problematic human embryonic stem cell research.


Gene Tarne is Senior Analyst for the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

[1] Maryland is one of a handful of states currently providing state funds for embryonic (and other types of) stem cell research. The others are California, New York, Connecticut and, most recently, Minnesota, which approved such funding in 2014. Programs in New Jersey and Illinois to provide state funding for such research have ended.


[2] Of the remaining two grants, one was for a project using fetal tissue, and the other for one using both embryonic and non-embryonic stem cells.


[3] The other two projects were 1) to create a human mouse chimera using both hESCs and iPSCs and 2) to improve technology that could be applied to any stem cell research.


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