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Public Statements

Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


STEM CELL THERAPEUTIC AND RESEARCH ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - December 17, 2005)

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for yielding me the time.

Mr. Speaker, it occurred to me on the way to work this afternoon that it is especially fitting that during this season of holiness and faith and surpassing religious significance that Congress send to the President a bill designed to effectuate cures of some of the most devastating diseases and cancers on earth.

Not only has God in His wisdom and goodness created a placenta and umbilical cord to nurture and protect the precious life of an unborn child, but now we know that another gift awaits us immediately after birth. Something very special is left behind, cord blood that is teeming with life-saving stem cells. Indeed, it is one of the best kept secrets in America that umbilical cord blood stem cells and adult stem cells are curing people of a myriad of terrible conditions and disease and are now showing the plasticity and pluripotency that my previous colleague just mentioned. So I would hasten to correct the gentlelady from Colorado that cord blood stem cells are not just for blood-related diseases, it also has the capability increasingly, as research shows, to do other miraculous things as well.

Let me just remind Members that we passed this legislation 6 months ago. Many things have happened since those 6 months. Much progress has been made. This bill law will establish a national program to collect upwards of 150,000 units, with great diversity, so that most Americans who suffer from anomalies that could be cured by cord blood will be able to get it.

Let me thank so many people, the Speaker, TOM DELAY, ROY BLUNT, JOE BARTON whom we all pray for and wish a very speedy recovery. Let me thank my friend on the other side of the aisle, the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Davis) and the Congressional Black Caucus for the yeoman's work that they expended in getting this legislation first passed in the House, then passed over on the Senate side, because there was a Democratic hold on it regrettably, TOM HARKIN, but then he lifted it.

Let me especially thank Senator Frist for the good work he did; SAM BROWNBACK; MIKE ENZI; ORRIN HATCH; JON KYL; so many others as well as so many here; the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Weldon); the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Pitts); the gentleman from California (Mr. Daniel E. Lungren); the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Pence) and I could go on and on. I have a list of three pages of people who have been instrumental in getting this legislation to the point where it will be passed and sent down to the President for signature.

Let me especially thank Cassie Bevan in the Majority Leader's Office who has worked so hard. She is amazing. John Cusey, on September 11, 2001, put together our first drafting meeting on this legislation. He too is amazing. That is how far back it goes. It has been a long time coming, and so many others. Cheryl Jaeger, Chuck Clapton, Kikki Kless in the Speaker's Office, Nicole Gustafson and Autumn Fredericks in the ProLife Caucus, Eric Euling in Senator Frist's office and Doug Branch with Senator Brownback and some of the others were outstanding. I will put the full statement in regarding all the many, many fine people who worked on this.

I will insert the remainder of my statement and the material I referred to previously at this point in the RECORD.

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Cord-blood stem cells are, as we speak, treating and curing patients. Amazingly, we are on the threshold of systematically turning medical waste, umbilical cords and placentas, into medical miracles for huge numbers of very sick and terminally ill patients who suffer from such maladies as leukemia and sickle cell anemia. And because this legislation promotes cord-blood research as well, we can expect new and expanded uses of these very versatile stem cells.

For the first time ever, our bill establishes a nationwide stem cell transplantation system. It also authorizes the national bone marrow transplant system and combines both under a new program, providing an easy, single-access point for information for doctors and patients and for the purpose of collecting and analyzing outcomes data.

The cord blood stem cell portion of this bill will provide federal funding to increase the number of cord blood units available to match and treat patients. The goal is to reach a total inventory of 150,000 units so that matched stem cells will be available to treat more than 90 percent of patients, especially focusing on providing genetic diversity. The legislation would also link all the cord blood banks participating in the inventory program into a search system that would allow transplant physicians to search for cord blood and bone marrow matches through a single access point. The national program would promote stem cell research by requiring any participating cord blood banks to donate units not suitable for transplant because of disease or size to researchers who are working on new applications for cord blood stem cells. The National Bone Marrow Registry authorization expired on September 30, 2003. The bill reauthorizes an updated program through fiscal year 2010 for $34 million in FY06 and $38 million for each additional year of the program.

In the more than 6 months since we passed this bill, even more advances have been made in the field. Peer-reviewed studies have been published showing increased plasticity and flexibility. In August, it was released that cord blood stem cells are as flexible as embryonic stem cells. Two young Maryland siblings have been cured of severe combined immune deficiency syndrome by cord blood from unrelated donors. Victims of Krabbe's and Hurler's diseases have found new hope in cord blood treatments--these are severe genetic neurological diseases that kill most of their victims before they reach 2 years old. A Duke University group treated newborns with cord blood--the lead author, Dr. Maria Escolar, now reports of the oldest survivor that the seven-year-old is ``now running, jumping and doing well in school.'' Earlier this month, Michelle Farrar from Leesburg, Virginia, traveled to South Korea to be treated for her spinal cord injury. True hope exists for countless other medical conditions, ranging from heart attacks to muscular dystrophy to diabetes.

Just over a month ago, Dr. Brian Mason, an OB/GYN at Detroit's St. John Hospital, explained that ``People literally are dying on the transplant list who could be cured with this.'' I am so happy that for those people, delayed action on this bill has ended. No longer will they be denied access to the cures that are out there. Those suffering from the nearly 70 often terminal diseases will now get the cures that the legislation will make available to them. The door to the treatments that have cured people like Keone Penn, Steven Sprague, and Jacklyn Albanese will now be opened for thousands of others.

As I mentioned before, there are so many people who deserve thanks in helping get this bill moved through the legislative process on both sides of the Hill. Among those people are Rich Doerflinger and Mark Gallagher from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Dr. David Prentice and David Christensen from the Family Research Council, the staff of the New York Blood Center including Pablo Rubenstein, Cladd Stevens, and Kathleen Reichert, Sue Ramthun who has been so personally invested in this issue, Dr. Edward Guindi at Cordus and NBA Hall of Famer Julius ``Dr. J'' Erving, Richie Weiblinger with the Senate Budget Committee, and the folks at Concerned Women for American, Focus on the Family, and the Susan B. Anthony List. I am ecstatic that we are passing it through here today and getting it to the President, so that we may set up this network that will absolutely save thousands of lives.

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