LOS ANGELES - As California moves quickly toward setting up a $3 billion embryonic stem cell research agency, other states are scrambling to prevent their top researchers from being raided.
The lure is clear: $300 million a year for embryonic stem cell research in California for the next decade, more than 10 times the yearly federal funding available and free of the Bush administration's tight restrictions on what research can be conducted with federal money.
Since the passage of Proposition 71 in California, which established the California Center for Regenerative Medicine, "Everyone I talk to wants to move to California," said Kevin Wilson, director of public policy for the American Society of Cell Biologists.
A few states, including Wisconsin and New Jersey, have announced or plan to soon announce new funding for stem cell research.
Others, such as Illinois, are considering legislation that endorses the research.
Embryonic stem cells can become cells of any type, so many scientists believe they have great promise for treating diseases.
But the research requires destroying human embryos to obtain the stem cells. Opponents of the research believe the destruction of embryos makes it immoral, regardless of the potential for curing disease.
Under restrictions President Bush imposed early in his first term, federal grants can be used only for work with a small selection of embryonic stem cells that existed before August 2001. Because of those limits, states have taken the lead in basic scientific research in the field, usurping the role traditionally played by the Washington-based National Institutes of Health.
Wisconsin's Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, said the more research done in the field, "the better it is for everyone." He announced a $750 million initiative devoted to stem cell research and biotechnology at state institutions last week. Half of that sum will fund research at the University of Wisconsin.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.