TRENTON – New Jersey’s stem cell agenda took another step forward today with the Senate Budget Committee approving a bill sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, which allocates $150 million to build a world-class stem cell institute. Sen. Codey testified before the committee, saying the bill, S1471, “has the potential to chart a new course in New Jersey history and the history of medical treatment all over the world.”
The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, allocates $200 million in unused bond capacity for construction of a stem cell institute in New Brunswick, as well as $50 million for a joint biomedical research facility in Camden. The stem cell institute would be located in the heart of New Jersey’s world-renowned life sciences industry and would be jointly operated by Rutgers University and the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“New Jersey’s stem cell institute can be the place where hope translates into real therapies,” said Sen. Codey. “Our actions, as legislators, will decide whether New Jersey pursues the promise of stem cell research together, whether we maintain our place as a leader in the life science industry, and whether we have the resources to save lives and ease suffering.”
The stem cell institute would be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to support cutting-edge research and would also include clinical facilities, enabling scientists to translate basic research into real-life therapies. Researchers would be able to move easily between laboratory research and treating their patients in the hospital. The institute would also benefit New Jersey’s pharmaceutical and biotech industry, which would ultimately bring these new therapies to the market.
The $50 million allocation in the bill would fund a proposed Systems Biology Institute, which would be part of the Camden Campus of Rutgers University and would bring together the resources of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. The institute would support a wide-range of biomedical activities, including doctoral research.
New Jersey’s stem cell efforts and bio-tech industry are threatened by growing competition from places like Harvard University, which recently unveiled plans for a state-of-the-art stem cell laboratory, as well as the state of Pennsylvania where a proposal to invest $1 billion in the state’s bio-tech industry was recently announced. The state also faces increased competition from abroad where countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and England have recently made stem cell headlines.
“New Jersey is a global leader in developing advanced medical cures that save countless lives,” said Senator Buono. “The stem cell research centers will allow us to maintain this lead while working with researchers from around the world to realize the potential that stem cell research has. For those living with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancer or numerous other diseases, the stem cell research centers will be a symbol of hope.”
Funding for the projects would not impact the state’s operating budget, but would instead come from existing unused bond capacity resulting from cigarette tax revenues. The bonds would be issued by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which will also oversee construction of the projects.
Sen. Codey originally proposed the investment in his 2005 State of the State Address as Governor. His previous bill, introduced last June, passed the full Senate, but failed to gain approval in the Assembly before the end of the legislative session.