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Rep. Smith, Medical Experts Call for Full Funding of Live-Saving Ethical Stem Cell Program

Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Smith, Medical Experts Call for Full Funding of Live-Saving Ethical Stem Cell Program

At an event on Capitol Hill today, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) called on his colleagues in Congress to fund the national program that promotes ethical, life-saving stem cell research and treatment at levels authorized in the law he authored, not at the considerably lower amount requested in the Administration's FY08 proposed budget.

President Bush's FY08 budget requests only $2 million for umbilical cord blood collection and storage as opposed to the $15 million authorized in Smith's law, the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005" (P.L. 109-129).

"Lives are already being saved through treatment with cord blood stem cells. To date, cord blood stem cell research and therapies have resulted in treatments for 70 diseases, including Leukemia, Sickle Cell Anemia and Hurler disease. In fact, adult stem cell research, which includes cord blood, is the only stem cell research to result in medical advancements and successful treatments. We must not shortchange this life-saving program," Smith said.

In total, the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005" authorized $265 million dollars for umbilical cord blood collection and storage and for reauthorization of the National Bone Marrow Registry. The law created the first national inventory to collect the needed units of blood and make them readily available. It authorized collection of 150,000 units of cord blood, with a focus on genetic diversity that is expected to meet the needs of 90% of all patients. These units will be made available through an open registry that will link public cord blood banks nationwide to simplify a physician's search for a blood match.

"This law in essence enables us to turn medical waste into medical miracles. Money is critical at this point in the program's inception as blood banks are in the early stages of collecting cord blood units. It is imperative that we provide the resources so they can build a true national inventory that meets the spirit and intentions of the law," said Smith.

Smith noted that the $15 million annual authorization for the cord blood program in his law was a minimum threshold and Congress should seek to appropriate even more.

"The law's authorization is a floor not a ceiling. We should seek to make the strongest investment possible in this innovative and life-saving research and treatment program," Smith said.

Smith's calls for full funding were echoed by U.S. Reps. Artur Davis (D-AL) and Dan Lungren (R-CA) as well as medical experts who informed Members of Congress of the successful treatment and research uses of cord blood stem cells that are in jeopardy without a strong federal investment.

"We have living proof that this works," Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, program director for the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank for Pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center, said while showing pictures of children who would not be alive today without the cord blood treatments they received.

"The medical experts on hand today are true pioneers who are responsible for many of the medical breakthroughs that have come from cord blood stem cell treatments. We should heed their calls and ensure that they, and others performing life-saving cord blood transplants, can continue to save lives," Smith said.

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