Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), the American biotechnology company that was the first to announce it had cloned a human embryo, has announced that it is to set up a laboratory in California, because of the state's support of embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research. ACT, currently based in Massachusetts, announced that it had created cloned human embryos in 2001.
Californian residents will vote on 2 November on a bill that that would provide the state with $3 billion of funding for human ES cell research. If passed, the bill, known as Proposition 71, or the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, would provide $295 million per year for 10 years to Californian universities, research institutes and companies involved in research into ES cells taken from human embryos that are less than two weeks old. It would also allocate funding for cloning projects to create stem cells for regenerative therapies, but specifies that cloning for reproductive purposes will not be allowed.
The group supporting the bill, which is encouraging a lot of debate in the state and national press, also proposed that a 29-member panel be established, appointed by state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, chancellors of the University of California and other officials, to distribute the funds in the form of grants. To qualify for the November ballot, the group, Californians for Stem Cell Research and Cures, had to obtain 600,000 signatures by 16 April, but the petition far exceeded this number: over one million voters had signed by that date when supporters of the proposal submitted the petition to Kevin Shelley, the Californian Secretary of State.
Robert Lanza, ACT's vice president of medical and scientific development, said that if the Californian bill passes 'I think you are going to see a massive movement west'.