from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

Contact: Gabe Valenzuela
(512) 463-0121
January 25, 2005


(AUSTIN)--Expert scientists, ethicists and biotech industry leaders will convene at the State Capitol on Wednesday, (Jan. 26) at 1 p.m. in the Senate Finance Committee room, E1.036, to discuss the scientific, moral and economic aspects of stem cell research. The educational forum is intended for legislators, staff and representatives from state agencies and institutions of higher education to help them be better informed when addressing stem cell issues.

Senator Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and host of the forum, said the many complexities involved will be addressed by three panels that will focus on scientific, ethics and business and economic issues.

"Stem cell research is an important subject that the Texas legislature inevitably will discuss during the legislative session at hand," Senator Zaffirini said. "Because this issue is so complex, we must address the many significant scientific, therapeutic and ethical concerns before considering any legislation regarding this matter. This forum will afford us a venue for engaging in an open discussion of both the opportunities and concerns regarding this issue."

The scientific panel will include leaders from health science centers and experts on stem cell research: Kenneth Shine (moderator), MD, executive vice chancellor for health affairs, The University of Texas System; James Willerson, MD, president, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; William Brinkley, PhD, dean and vice president of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine; Nancy Dickey, MD, president, Texas A&M University Health Science Center; Raymond Lewandowski, Jr., MD, Texas Medical Association Scientific Affairs Committee; and Norman Kalmin, MD, President/CEO, Texas Cord Blood Bank.

The ethics panel will weigh the pros and cons of stem cell research and includes Ron Carson (moderator), PhD, director, The Institute for Medical Humanities at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; Laurie Zoloth, PhD, director of bioethics at the Center for Genetic Medicine and professor of medical ethics and humanities, Northwestern University; and Eric Cohen, director of the Biotechnology and American Democracy program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and consultant to the President's Council on Bioethics.

The economic and business panel will focus on the economic impact of stem cell research in Texas, especially in light of California's Proposition 71, which provides $3 billion for stem cell research. Participants include Angelos Angelou (moderator), CEO, AngelouEconomics; Robert Klein, director of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and chief architect of Proposition 71; John Mendelsohn, MD, president, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; David McWilliams, CEO, PharmaFrontiers; and Mary Pat Moyer, PhD, president, CEO, and chief science officer, INCELL Corporation.

The bipartisan host committee includes 20 senators and 44 state representatives. The senators are Zaffirini, Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin), John Carona (R-Dallas), Robert Deuell (R-Greenville), Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), Mario Gallegos (D-Houston), Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Kyle Janek (R-Houston), Jon Lindsay (R-Houston), Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), Frank Madla (D-San Antonio), Steve Ogden (R-Bryan), Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso), Todd Staples (R-Palestine), Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), Royce West (D-Dallas), and John Whitmire (D-Houston).

House members include representatives:

Rick Hardcastle, co-chair, R-Vernon Terri Hodge, D-Dallas
Lon Burnam, D-Ft Worth Mark Homer, D-Paris
Carter Casteel, R-New Braunfels Chuck Hopson, D-Jacksonville
Garnett Coleman, D-Houston Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock
Byron Cook, R-Corsicana Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin
Robbie Cook, D-Eagle Lake Jerry Madden, R-Richardson
Myra Crownover, R-Denton Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin
Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio
Glenda Dawson, R-Pearland Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria
Joe Driver, R-Garland Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin
Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin Joe Pickett, D-El Paso
Jim Dunnam, D-Waco Richard Raymond, D-Laredo
Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands Allan Ritter, D-Nederland
Gary Elkins, R-Houston Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin
David Farabee, D-Wichita Falls Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs
Dan Flynn, R-Van Mark Strama, D-Austin
Pete Gallego, D-Alpine Sylvester Turner, D-Houston
Charlie Geren, R- Ft Worth Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio
Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas Hubert Vo, D-Houston
Pat Haggerty, R-El Paso Martha Wong, R-Houston
Peggy Hamric, R-Houston Beverly Woolley, R-Houston
Scott Hochberg, D-Houston Bill Zedler, R-Arlington

In the wake of California's initiative, other states have announced their own stem cell research policies. New Jersey Governor Richard Codey last month proposed a joint stem cell initiative among New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Some Texas lawmakers are concerned about the impact of those efforts on Texas's economy and research institutions and how to balance these issues with significant ethical concerns.

"The humanitarian benefits and economic potential offered by stem cell research are significant," Senator Zaffirini said. "It is crucial that Texas remains at the forefront in this area of research to protect the welfare of our citizens and the viability of our research institutions, but our approach must be ethical."