One more unexpected and fantastic advantage to having Barack Obama overturn the Bush administration's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research: The stem cell research that did go on under Bush was often sponsored by private sources and benefactors. In our current economic downturn, those sources have bit hammered by losses, and might not be able to pony up enough cash to keep important research afloat. I spoke with Dr. Janet Rowley of the University of Chicago, a winner of the National Medal of Science who was invited to appear with the president at Monday's signing. She said:
"In one sense it's a return to normal, because you can argue that it hasn't been normal for a while, or at least under the Republican leadership. I don't think the Democrats have been so bad. But in this speech, Obama also promised to have scientific information and advice from people irrespective of their politics, and that politics should not impinge on and influence scientific decisions…. This statement has got broader implications than just the stem cell issue.
Kai Wright sang the praises of this development earlier this week. Rowley continued:
I think for many people it will really have a major impact. 90 percent of my research is on leukemia and the relationship of genes that are active in leukemia as compared with normal blood cells. We haven't really used embryonic stem cells but this will make it much easier to do that because before, if you were doing human embryonic stem cell research you would do it with private money. And in this climate that can't be depended upon.
Certain parts of last month's Recovery Act also contain appropriations for medical and scientific research—which, Rowley says, many scientists are looking to in order to continue their work. "People with stem cell research will apply for money out of this stimulus package," she said. This is only another positive indication for the treatment of countless diseases and conditions.
Come correct, kids—What do you say? "Thank you, Democratic leadership."
I'm sure they'd respond: "You're welcome."
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.