Stem Cell Federalism Flunks in New Jersey
Some bioethics and health policy wonks have recently argued that the unprecedented state-based stem cell research initiatives stimulated by the Bush administration’s limits on federal funding show the virtues of federalism. The theory seems to work for states like California, Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin, but New Jersey voters have rejected a $450 million bond issue for stem cell research, in spite of Gov. Jon Corzine’s strong support.
The New Jersey vote demonstrates that state-based investment in long-term science can easily get caught up in local politics. Garden State voters apparently decided the issue not on ideology but on the finances. They’re concerned that the state’s fiscal house is in disorder and don’t want Trenton to borrow more money, at least until matters get sorted out.
There’s another local element that makes New Jersey special in this field. It is home to large pharmaceutical companies that will someday get into stem cell-based medicine by buying up small companies that have spun off from basic research that will happen in other states.
So enthusiasm about state stem cell initiatives needs to be tempered by the New Jersey experience, as well as by the inefficiencies that can arise from doing basic biomedical research without coordination by the National Institutes of Health. As I and my colleagues have written before, the states can’t go it alone.
Comments on this article