Georgia will appear to be “anti-science” and “anti-health” if it limits stem cell research, key California scientist says

Dr. Marie Csete, one of the leading stem cell researchers in the country, calls proposed legislation in Georgia to outlaw such research as “nonsense.”

When similar legislation came up a couple of years ago, Dr. Csete vehemently opposed those restrictions. As one of Emory University’s top researchers, she was trying to protect her institution’s position (as well as Georgia’s place) in the field of bioscience.

It should have come as no surprise that Dr. Csete would leave Georgia. She was offered, and took, the job of chief scientific officer of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, based in a state that is investing $3 billion in stem cell research.

I had tried unsuccessfully to reach out to Dr. Csete when I was writing last week’s Maria’s Metro column to get her thoughts about the current proposed legislation.
We finally connected a few days ago, and this is what she shared with me.

“It’s so sad that they’re at this again,” Dr. Csete said. “It’s so backwards. It’s so incredibly anti-data, anti-science and anti-health. It feels like I’m on a different planet here in California.”

Interestingly enough, Dr. Csete said that when she testified against legislation that would restrict stem cell research two years ago, testimony that was well covered in the press, she said that all contact from members of public were supportive of her position.

“My sense is that the public is on a different wave-length than the legislators,” she said. “Across the country, the public is increasingly embracing adult and embryonic stem cell research.”

Dr. Csete said she continues to be concerned about how the state legislature’s actions will damage Georgia’s economic development potential as well as its reputation in the scientific community.

And she believes that if such efforts are successful in Georgia, it will “pull a great deal of the South with it.”

The damage won’t be just economic development, but at our institutions of higher learning.

“From an educational standpoint, Georgia won’t be competitive,” Dr. Csete said. “A graduate biology student is not going to go some place where the tool box is limited.”

Let’s hope our state legislators are listening and that they care about Georgia’s economic future.

The bill limiting stem cell research passed the Georgia Senate a couple of weeks ago, and it is now in the House Science and Technology Committee. Let’s hope that’s where it dies.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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