March 03, 2004
Harvard To Found Human Embryonic Stem Cell Institute

The Boston Globe has reported that Harvard University is going to create a stem cell research institute using private funding that will work with human embryonic stem cells.

Set to be announced in April, the stem cell plan will bring together researchers from Harvard and all of the Harvard-affiliated hospitals to unlock the mysteries of a type of cell that has the potential to develop into any healthy tissue in the body, but has triggered ethical controversy over the way it is created. Though not housed in a central building, the initiative will be large, even by Harvard standards, with a fund-raising goal of about $100 million, according to the scientists involved.

Harvard has confirmed the Boston Globe report.

Harvard issued a statement Sunday confirming its plans, saying the school is "proceeding in the direction of establishing a stem cell institute." Final details are not complete, it said.

One goal of the new institute appears to be to use private money in order to bypass Bush Administration funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

Provost Steven E. Hyman confirmed plans were in progress for the Harvard Stem Cell Center, which would bring together researchers from the University and affiliated hospitals who are already exploring the promising cells’ potential to help cure diseases like AIDS and diabetes. “We are moving forward on a stem cell center,” Hyman said. “It’s something Harvard ought to be doing. It is something we can be preeminent in.”

The revelation, first reported yesterday in The Boston Globe, comes two weeks after a South Korean laboratory became the first to extract a line of stem cells from a cloned human embryo, disappointing Harvard researchers who had been pursuing the achievement.

A report circulated by Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) William C. Kirby in January included a proposal to establish a stem cell research program on the University’s lands in Allston.

“Not only does the Institute propose to bridge the gap from basic to applied life science, it also proposes to address the complex social, ethical and religious questions that have arisen as stem cell research has advanced,” read the report obtained by The Crimson.

Human embryonic stem cells, which can harness the potency of fertilized eggs to form any variety of human tissue, have emerged as a pivotal—and controversial—field of study.

Bush administration restrictions limit government-financed research to pre-existing stem cells, but Hyman said the University would seek funding for the center from private donors and foundations.

One way or another human embryonic stem cell research is going to be done. It will be done by private money in the United States. It will be done in some other countries, particularly in East Asia where there is enough scientific talent and money and little in the way of government restrictions.

I think some proponents of human embryonic stem cell research have promoted unrealistic expectations about how quickly human embryonic stem cell research would produce useful treatments if only there were fewer political obstacles to this area of research.. Much of the work that needs to be done to understand how to manipulate stem cells can be and is being done in various animal models. This is similar to how many other kinds of research are done in other species for reasons of cost, ethics, ease of the work, and other factors. Plus, a lot of work on stem cells can be done on non-embryonic stem cells.

I'm not saying all this to make an argument against human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. Decide for yourself whether you think that kind of research is ethically acceptable. My point is that in order to fight for the legality of this research the proponents have overstated how urgent the need is for doing human embryonic stem cell research at this point in time and at least one prominent stem cell researcher has put forth a similar view on this controversy.

Update: On a related note a group at Harvard led by researcher Douglas Melton has used private funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to develop 17 new human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines.

March 3, 2004— Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers at Harvard University announced today that they have derived 17 new human embryonic stem-cell lines. The new cell lines will be made available to researchers, although at this time United States policies prohibit the use of federal funds to investigate these cells.

The cell lines were derived using private funds by researchers in the laboratory of Douglas A. Melton, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator at Harvard University. The researchers described the stem-cell lines in an article published online on March 3, 2004, in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The article will also be in the March 25, 2004, print edition of NEJM.

HHMI funds a lot of excellent quality biomedical research and has an endowment which is currently about $11 billion dollars and which currently provides $450 million per year in biomedical research funding to hundreds of investigators. So HHMI has pockets deep enough to make hESC research happen in the United States without federal government money.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 March 03 02:13 AM  Biotech Organ Replacement

Reason said at March 3, 2004 7:24 PM:

Good post. I'm thinking Douglas Melton deserves some sort of medal, or at least a lot of congratulatory sentiments, for coordinating his effort to produce more lines. I scratched up a "why the number of lines is important" post earlier today, as I suspect that this is something that many casual non-scientific readers don't necessarily key into:

Founder, Longevity Meme

mojgan said at April 5, 2004 2:18 PM:

To who to be concern,
My son is 5 years old. He had an intra ventricular
hemorrhage after birth.
He is a CP child now .I heard something about stem
cell transplants and repair brain for CP children.
Is it correct? Do I hope about threat my child?
Can you give me some information about that?
Thank you so much
I 'm waiting to hear you

barry cole said at June 18, 2004 6:08 AM:


My Daughter takes 1480 shots a year and 1825 tests a year

She has got Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes

The drug companies that sell the Insulin, Gizmo’s and Gadgets are making millions

If she had cancer, at least she would have some hope

But for her, there is no cure

Why not Stem Cell Research?

Dads Against Diabetes

T.V. Telethon


Dads Against Diabetes is in the planning stage the first annual "telethon" for Children with Type I Juvenile Diabetes to be held in Houston, Texas, exclusively for Stem Cell Research. We are working with a major Hospital to acquire and relocate full time researchers to work on stem cell research specific to Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes and the preservation of stem cells to keep them from dying. We are planning to bring together local T.V. hosts, top entertainers, corporate sponsors and volunteers to make this a successful event. Researchers will be filmed discussing the latest information on their research. We plan to do the event in 2005. We need to raise approximately $2.5mm for recruitment of researchers. We will be mailing the telethon information and our “Tips and Tops Program” to our database of adults and children with Type I Juvenile diabetes, asking them to keep sending in their “Tips and Tops” to Houston on a monthly basis for recycling that we turn into cash. We also plan on filming children with Type I diabetics pouring their Tips and Tops into large barrels during the telethon for recycling. Individual and corporate will be solicited. We would like to know if any might be interested in somehow helping with the telethon?



4747 Research Forest Dr., Suite 180

The Woodlands, Texas 77381

mojgan said at September 28, 2004 12:09 PM:

To whom it may concern

I am a CP child's mother. My son is five. He is spastic and his progress is weak.
However, he understands well. I found out about stem cells transplant on internet and I think it may help to my son. Do you know who and where we can get stem cells transplant for my child?

Thank you in advance

BOBBYJ said at January 14, 2005 7:05 AM:


marina said at October 2, 2005 9:17 PM:

It sickens me that people get abortions too but it happens. Until your a parent of a sick or disabled child that only has you for care and support. Don't judge those of us that may finally have a glimer of hope for a normal life for our children. If stem cells will help my child i will be the first in line to get it.

A very hopeful mom

Tieisha said at May 22, 2007 9:47 PM:

To anyone who can HELP...
I have a daughter who just turned a year old and sadly she
has CP. I really would like information regarding stem cell therapy in the new york area...

Harish Teckchandani said at April 9, 2008 10:38 AM:

I have a cp child of 4yrs any hope with stem cell. is it avialable in India how much it costs pl. let me know any other info for his betterment

Donald Wenzel said at April 25, 2008 12:50 PM:

I'm a 45 yr old man with mild CP, I walk with canes but have no balance. If there is experimental treatment/testing out there, I would be very interested in learning more about it. I would like help for myself but also help in finding treatment for this disease. I watched a segment on tv about a boy born, the parents had the embilical cord saved and then used the stem cells from that after learning the boy had cp to treat the child.

Helen said at July 19, 2008 7:45 AM:

I am the mother of a 16 year old boy with CP. I was told that my son wouldn't live to the age of 1, or if he did he would be a vegetable, and not to bother with him.
Well, I bothered for 16 years and now Julian is at the second year of language high school in Italy.
I have had very little help from doctors or therapists and have had to do everything myself, including research, physiotherapy, speach therapy etc. Julian, today, is the result of what you can get out of CP children if you put your whole life into it. Don't comiserate, this will not help your child. Dedicate your life in making his/hers better.
There is no medicine that works as well as life quality!
Stem cells may help CP children in the future but we still have to wait a long time.

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