FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GROUPS, PARENTS AND SCIENTISTS UNITE AGAINST PROPOSED BAN ON THERAPEUTIC CLONING
OFFER LIFE-SAVING THERAPIES
Washington, D.C., April 24, 2002 -- An alliance of patient groups, concerned parents and leaders in the scientific, business, entertainment and religious communities joined forces today to plea to the administration and the U.S. Senate to oppose a bill that would ban and criminalize the most promising forms of scientific research for medical cures.
Calling S.1899 a bill that could "decimate the hope of millions of Americans, including children afflicted with degenerative and debilitative conditions," the newly formed group, CuresNow, said the legislation would put a grinding halt to medical research that could bring scientists closer to discovering cures for chronic conditions that affect more than 128 million Americans. Never before in the history of America has the U.S. government criminalized scientific pursuit.
"How can we explain to our children that our own government is now the greatest obstacle to a cure for their disease?" said Lucy Fisher, former Vice Chairman of the Columbia Tristar Motion Picture Group at Sony Entertainment, and the parent of a daughter with juvenile diabetes.
"I made a promise to my daughter the night she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that I would help find a cure, and now it's within reach," added Janet Zucker, a motion picture producer and co-founder with Fisher of CuresNow. "We cannot afford to give up. We have no choice. Lives are at stake."
CuresNow is a coalition of scientists, patient groups and leaders of the entertainment business and religious community that have joined together to support science.
While CuresNow vehemently opposes reproductive cloning, it strongly supports therapeutic cloning -- a type of research known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) - that would be banned under S. 1899, sponsored by Sens. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). SCNT is not reproductive cloning.
Leading scientists and patient groups also have voiced their support for SCNT research, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the American Diabetes Association, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and the American Society for Cell Biology.
Forty Nobel laureates also have signed a public letter in support of the research, stating that, "It seems unbelievable that the U.S. Senate would deny advanced medical treatment to millions of suffering Americans because of an aversion to a technology that was used in its development. If Senator Brownback's legislation becomes law, it would have a chilling effect on all scientific research in the United States."
SCNT offers hope
Americans suffering from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses could benefit from SCNT. The technique removes the nucleus from a recipient's skin cell and places it into an unfertilized egg cell that has had its nucleus removed. From this egg cell, scientists can derive stem cells that can be used wherever they are needed, such as to heal damaged nerves in the spinal cord or to replace brain cells damaged by a stroke. This flexibility gives doctors a versatile tool that may help treat a wide range of diseases without having to use toxic anti-rejection drugs that now plague organ transplantation procedures.
"Somatic cell nuclear transfer may prove to be a vital tool in allowing scientists to fully develop the promise of stem cell research," said Michael Manganiello, President of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research. "CAMR is committed to ensuring that this life-saving research be allowed to move forward."
The Brownback-Landrieu bill calls for the banning of all cloning research - including SCNT, which is used only for therapeutic purposes - and would declare the scientists who perform SCNT to be criminals.
"The promise of SCNT could lead to real treatments for diseases that for now, we have little recourse," said David Baltimore, M.D., President of the California Institute of Technology and Nobel prizewinner for his work in virology. "To criminalize this important research by casting it in the same category as human cloning is misguided."
CuresNow represents wide base of SCNT supporters
CuresNow was founded by two families whose children suffer from chronic illnesses, and includes families and friends of others affected by a variety of serious conditions. It also includes leaders in the scientific, health, education, business and entertainment communities. In addition to Janet Zucker and Lucy Fisher, CuresNow founding members are: