WSCS2012: outstanding panel discussion on legal challenges to stem cell research

It was near to a stem cell wonk’s heaven to be in the audience for a panel discussion, entitled Understanding the Legal and Policy Challenges to Stem Cell Research, here at the World Stem Cell summit in Florida late this afternoon.

The stellar panel included Jeanne Loring of Scripps, Beth Roxland of Hofstra University and formerly of The Empire State Stem Cell Board, and Matthew Vincent of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT).

It was moderated by the wonderful Alan Jakimo and went a full 90 minutes even though it was scheduled only for 60 minutes. The audience and panel just didn’t seem to want to stop discussing the many important issues at hand.

Beth RoxlandRoxland (see above) started things off with a great discussion of key legal cases including Sherley v Sebelius and a lawsuit brought against The Empire State Stem Cell Board by an organization called “Feminists Choosing Life” that challenged the Board’s funding of somatic cell nuclear transfer. Both cases have brought good verdicts for the stem cell field, although of course the former case could still go to the Supreme Court on appeal.

Vincent of ACT presented some really exciting data on ACT’s hESC-based work for macular degeneration. He also discussed the importance of federal funding of hESC research and in particular the importance of getting more hESC lines onto the national registry as a means to catalyze more translational research.

Jeanne Loring discussed her perspective as an academic scientist who is in favor of both hESC and hIPSC research, which I found really interesting as a colleague.

All in all it was a great discussion and the audience asked more than a dozen questions including one very excellent one from Gary Susser, who was in the 60 Minutes Episode that exposed Dr. Dan Ecklund. Susser asked what we can do now to make a difference.

I believe a big part of the answer is educational outreach and advocacy including by scientists.