Sep 2, 2015

Fetal Tissue Bill Puts Wisconsin at a Crossroads

'Research on fetal tissue offers the promise of potential treatment, vaccines and cures for birth defects and diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes, from muscular dystrophy to Parkinson’s disease, and from immune disorders to killer strains of influenza'—Wisconsin Technology Council
State Representative André Jacque (R-De Pere, Wisconsin) is another anti-choice, know-nothing hick dominating the rural legislative districts in the gerrymandered Wisconsin legislature. (Miller, Isthmus)

Typical of Jacque's array of dogmas is his crusade to kill fetal tissue research though Jacque cannot offer a coherent, factual argument for his long-held position.

The proposed legislation is Assembly Bill 305.

Science and Public Health Research v. Ignorance and Dogma

Biotechnology research scientists, public health, business and women's group are lobbying hard against Jacque's bill that would ban, among other research, promising lines of investigation involving Pluripotent stem cells. (National Institute of Health)

Jacque postures an expertise in biotechnology research and biomedical ethics bringing him to the conclusion that fetal tissue is "aborted children." (Sommerhauser, Wisconsin State Journal)

Today, the rightwing Wisconsin State Journal ran an editorial deriding Jacque's fact-free zone:

About $76 million in annual research dollars and 1,400 jobs are at stake as the Republican-run Legislature weighs a misguided attack on Wisconsin’s high-tech economy. ...

'The unintended consequences of a unilateral Wisconsin restriction on research would likely be devastating ... to efforts to build a high-tech economy,' a [Wisconsin] Technology Council resolution released Monday reads. ...

Jacque’s proposal also would chase away innovators doing ethical and tightly regulated studies targeting birth defects and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, immune disorders and deadly strains of influenza.
Way to go State Journal, still steeped in Republican land as it runs an editorial entitled "GOP should drop fetal tissue bill." The State Journal and other slanted newspapers helped make the Republican Party, maybe the State Journal should drop the Republican Party.

With current Republican Wisconsin legislators veering into an 18th-century level of scientific understanding, the Wisconsin Technology Council's advice is sorely needed.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety on September 9. The Wisconsin State Assembly does not have a committee on science and technology.

Of the 12 members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, a full six are co-sponsors of the bill.

Gov. Scott Walker, another rabid anti-choice Republican, desperate to position himself as more-crazy-than-though in the presidential Republican primary, is considered a wild card—Evangelical and anti-science but open to moneyed interests in the still young field of biotechnology and stem cells.

Pro-science, public health sectors are holding out hope the bill gets dropped or amended.


Wisconsin is at a crossroads: Backward toward fundamentalist-inspired ignorance, or forward to pioneering public health research.

Dr. James A. Thomson is the founder of stem cell science arsing from his pioneering discoveries of primate and human embryonic stem cells, in 1995 and 1998 at UW-Madison. (University of Wisconsin-Madison Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center)

The flight of top researchers from Wisconsin has already begun thanks to the anti-science work of Scott Walker and rural legislative Republicans.

"The word is already out on street that Wisconsin is not the place for science or biomedical research," said Dr. Robert Golden, Dean of the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "We need to turn that around." (Schneider, Capital Times)

One political party stands in the way of Golden and most of Wisconsin's aspirations: The Republican Party of Wisconsin and Scott Walker.

"Golden told the [legislative committee last month] that the bill, if passed, would shut down life-saving research and poison the climate for investment in biomedical innovation, much of which occurs in Madison," notes the Capital Times' Schneider.

Continues Schneider: "Madison attorney David Walsh, a former member of the UW Board of Regents, isn’t sure conservative members of the committee were interested in much of the testimony against the bill [last month].

"'It is clearly an attack on the university,' said Walsh, whose term ended in May. 'They are trying to criminalize the activities of UW researchers. It’s that simple.'"

Wisconsin Technology Council

Here is the text of the Tech Council's resolution opposing the proposed ban on legal fetal tissue research, a bill that has only Republican co-sponsors.

August 31, 2015

The Wisconsin Technology Council has been on record since 2002 as supporting legislation that encourages high-tech research and company creation, and as opposing restrictions on research that place Wisconsin at a competitive disadvantage. The current debate over fetal tissue research in Wisconsin compels us to reiterate the factors behind our 2002 resolution:

1. Academic researchers who have established an international reputation for their work are driven by a passionate belief that their work will benefit humanity. Many competing institutions are attempting to recruit researchers. If Wisconsin adopts legislation that restricts research, these researchers would likely relocate to an institution in a state or country where no such limitations exist. There will be no net impact on the area of research; it simply will no longer be done in Wisconsin. The adoption of legislation that restricts research will effectively be only symbolic with negative economic and intellectual consequences for the state and its citizens.

2. Technology research in Wisconsin is not conducted in a vacuum. It is performed under the surveillance of ethical and scientific oversight organizations.

3. The unintended consequences of a unilateral Wisconsin restriction on research would likely be devastating to its efforts to build a high-tech economy. Adoption of research restrictions will send a signal that Wisconsin has a hostile regulatory environment for tech-based research. Wisconsin academic institutions and private companies would face new challenges in attracting world-class researchers who might be concerned that their research will be targeted next.

4. Companies and investors will view Wisconsin as having a burdensome regulatory climate and as being a risky place to conduct business. In the process of establishing ineffective regulations, we will undermine one of our greatest strengths, while driving out businesses, including firms that would not have likely been a part of an ethical debate.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Wisconsin Technology Council:

- Opposes the sale of fetal tissue, as currently banned under federal law.
- Supports legal procedures for obtaining fetal tissue from regulated tissue banks.
- Recognizes that researchers across the United States have used fetal tissue since the 1930s to advance medicine. The HEK 293 cell line was derived from a single fetus more than 40 years ago and is still used by researchers everywhere – including nearly 100 labs on the Madison campus.
- Recognizes that such experiments led to development of the polio vaccine, to cite one prominent example. Current studies use fetal tissue to target birth defects and diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes, from muscular dystrophy to Parkinson’s disease, and from immune disorders to killer strains of influenza.
- Recognizes that $76 million in outside research dollars, predominantly from federal sources such as the National Institutes of Health, flow each year to UW-Madison labs that conduct research with fetal tissue. Collectively, those labs employ about 1,400 people.
- Recognizes that poorly drafted legislation related to fetal tissue research would do immediate and long-term damage to Wisconsin’s reputation as a state that welcomes biomedical research.  - Recommends that bills under debate in the Wisconsin Legislature should ensure that legacy cell lines are exempt from additional state oversight.
- Recommends those same bills place oversight burdens on the research institutions themselves, which pay to transport and safely store legally obtained tissue, not individual researchers.
- Recommends those same bills not ban the use or criminalize the use of fetal tissue obtained ethically and according to federal law

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