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House Adopts Smith Amendment That Triples Funding for Life-Saving Ethical Stem Cell Research Program

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

House Adopts Smith Amendment That Triples Funding for Life-Saving Ethical Stem Cell Research Program

U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Artur Davis (D-AL) successfully amended a federal spending bill to add millions of dollars for the national program that promotes ethical, life-saving stem cell research and treatment.

The House of Representatives agreed to the Smith-Davis amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill FY08, which is expected to pass the House today. Passage of the amendment means the federal government will now allocate $15 million in FY08 to the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI), bringing the program's budget to the level authorized in the law Smith authored, the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005" (P.L. 109-129).

"Stem cells taken from umbilical cords are already being used in research and are saving lives. Approximately 8,000 patients have received cord blood treatments for over 70 diseases, including Leukemia, Sickle Cell Anemia and Hurler disease in the last two years alone. With a proven track record such as this, it is imperative that the federal government continue to support this innovative, life-saving program," said Smith.

Smith noted that without the amendment, the NCBI would be shortchanged at a critical time in the program's development.

"The NCBI—created in 2005—now gives us the opportunity to turn medical waste into medical miracles. Without passage of this amendment, the current grant recipients would need to dramatically scale back their cord blood banking initiatives just as they're ramping up to treat more patients. However, by appropriating the full $15 million, we can triple this year's collection number," Smith said.

Originally, today's spending bill—the FY08 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Act (H.R. 3043)—only included $4 million for the NCBI for FY08, which falls far short of the $15 million authorized by Smith's 2005 law. The Smith-Davis amendment requires that an additional $11 million of the non-specific allocations to the Health Research and Service Administration (HRSA) must be used to fund the NCBI, bringing it up to the authorized level of $15 million for FY08.

"Surely we can accommodate an $11 million shift—the net effect of my amendment—to a proven regenerative medical treatment that will mitigate—even cure—a myriad of diseases including leukemia and sickle cell anemia," Smith said.

In total, Smith's "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 NCBI, the first national inventory to collect the needed units of blood and make them readily available.

Smith's law authorized the collection of 150,000 units of cord blood for the NCBI, 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 for stem cells.

The law mandates that any units of cord blood collected and deemed unsuitable for transplantation be donated for additional cord blood stem cell research. Unlike embryonic stem cell research—which to date has yet to produce any cures or treatments—cord blood and other adult stem cell research already have resulted in clinical treatments without requiring the destruction of life.

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