In praise of the Ill. stem cell bill (Editorial)

A bill funding embryonic stem cell research in Illinois will go into effect Jan. 1, largely thanks to the efforts of state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston). Northwestern was one of the supporters of the bill listed in a Senate press release in August, a laudable action on the part of the university. In a time when national stem cell legislation has floundered, Illinois has made a smart first step.

Stem cell research is a widely controversial issue – some argue the human embryos used in research represent lives being destroyed – but it can be used to advance medical knowledge and potentially save millions of lives.

Although NU is not a big participant in the field now, the funding may bring research. We’ve already seen what those professors in Tech can produce. Stem cell research could be instrumental in the development of anti-tumor drugs and diabetes treatments.

Schoenberg’s bill, which he co-sponsored with state Sen. Tom Cross (R-Oswego), narrowly failed twice before it passed in the Illinois General Assembly and Senate. The senators consistently pushed this important issue until it got the notice and approval it deserves. Schoenberg now plans to push for more public funding of stem cell research. In 2004, California residents voted for a proposition to allocate $3 billion of state funds to stem cell research. If that initiative spread to other states, current knowledge in the field – and thus current knowledge of many diseases – could advance by leaps and bounds.