Study: Stem cell research money provides jobs, taxes
Lawmakers consider $12.4 million funding request for next year
The Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission is using a new report to bolster its appeal for at least level funding in next year's budget.
The study, conducted by Sage Policy Group of Baltimore, shows that the program which grants millions of dollars in awards each year, mostly to university researchers supports 514 jobs in the state, with an average salary of $64,000. The program facilitates $71.3 million in business sales in the state, and the stem cell industry generates $2.7 million in state and local taxes annually, the study says.
The Maryland Technology Development Corp., which administers the stem cell fund program, commissioned the study.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is seeking $12.4 million for the stem cell fund in fiscal 2011, the same amount appropriated for the current fiscal year. That's a significant decrease from just two years ago, when some $22 million was appropriated for stem cell research grants. Last year, the program received $18 million. In June 2008, before the recession took a serious bite out of the state's finances, O'Malley proposed spending $20 million annually over the next 10 years under his Bio 2020 initiative.
Lawmakers are currently considering stem cell research funding in the fiscal 2011 budget. The Department of Legislative Services has recommended cutting O'Malley's proposal in half, to $6.2 million in fiscal 2011, as a "cost containment measure."
"This action will assist in alleviating the State's current budgetary concerns, while still allowing the continuance of this discretionary program at a more modest level," the department wrote in its analysis.
Senate and House subcommittees held hearings this week and last on the issue. Among those who testified were John M. Wasilisin, acting president and executive director of Tedco, and Dan Gincel, director of the stem-cell research fund since 2007.
According to Gincel, most lawmakers support funding stem cell research.
"They all are aware of the importance of the fund, and all want to support it in one way or another," Gincel said, although some legislators have reservations concerning funding embryonic stem cell research.
Among those testifying was Nancy Paltell of the Maryland Catholic Conference, who said the program hasn't focused enough on adult stem cell research with more immediate, practical applications for patients.
O'Malley said the new report is an indication of the program's significance in strengthening the state's economy.
"The findings of this economic development analysis validate, on paper, what supporters of stem cell research in our state have been saying for years that Maryland's investment in stem cell research is not only critical to advancing science, but to moving our state's economy forward," O'Malley said in a statement. "Without the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, more than 500 Marylanders would be without a job and millions of direct and indirect dollars in state revenue would be lost. In this uncertain economy, the continued investment in stem cell research remains sound and valuable."
The study was based on data from the stem cell fund's first two years, fiscal 2007 and 2008. In those two years, the program awarded 82 projects totaling $38 million to Maryland stem cell researchers.
All told, the program has awarded more than $56 million to fund 140 research grants. The lion's share of the grants has gone to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, with most of the rest going to University of Maryland scientists. Only a few have gone to private-sector researchers.
That may change, however, Gincel said.
The stem cell commission is now encouraging funding more collaborations between private companies and university researchers, he said. This year, the program received 41 applications from such collaborations, and the stem cell commission has directed the fund's officials to give preference to those that pass initial scientific muster.
The study, "Economic Benefits of Maryland's Stem Cell Program Already Apparent," is available at www.mscrf