Stem Cell Research and Texas

By Charles Schotz

Today we are witnessing a tremendous breakthrough in medical science and research. Stem cells have gener- ated unprecedented excitement in medical research because of their well-founded promise to treat many major health issues, a wide range of sporting and physical injuries, and assist in surgery recovery. Stem cells are also the motivation for a young generation of research scientists and the stimulus for new thriving commercial opportunities. The best and the brightest students will seek institutions that are conducting this exciting research, and new technologies developed at our schools will be translated into new businesses.

Stem cell awareness has been growing in Texas and Austin since early 2000. In 2007, several individuals, myself included, with personal commitments to promoting safe and ethical stem cell research and therapy in Texas founded Texans for Stem Cell Research (TSCR). By 2008, TSCR received its 501(c)3 nonprofit designation. This allowed the organization to pursue its primary goal of educating our fellow Texans on stem cell research in Texas.

TSCR educates policymakers and fellow Texans on the medical and potential economic benefits of this re- search. A 2009 economic impact study by Dr. Bernard Weinstein of Southern Methodist University stated that Texas could realize more than 230,000 new jobs and $1.3 billion annually in new state and local taxes from biotech and biomedical companies relocating to the Lone Star State to conduct stem cell research. Considering today’s economic conditions it is imperative that state and academic leaders take advantage of this unique opportunity. By establishing a world class stem cell institute in Texas dedicated to conducting FDA clinically approved trials, Texans can benefit from this research for generations to come.

The University of Texas is at the forefront of stem cell research in Texas. Currently, 206 of the over 450 stem cell clinical trials being conducted in Texas are at UT Health Science Center facilities. These trials include spinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

TSCR is working to help increase the number of these trials and thus the number of people receiving stem cell therapy. As educated alumni of UT and citizens of Texas, it’s in our best interest to support organizations like TSCR, and others across the country, to realize the promise of stem cell research.

Many other states are making strong commitments to stem cell research. Nine other states, including Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, currently fund stem cell research. California leads the way having appropriated, in 2006, $3 billion for 10 years. If Texas is serious about reestablishing itself as a leader in this field, our elected officials should support the University of Texas’ academic and health science centers by giving them the necessary funding to move forward.

University of Texas alumni do not like being second to anyone. But right now we’ve fallen behind eight other states which have recognized the enormous potential of stem cell research. We can continue ignoring reality or choose to rightfully reinstate Texas as a leader in medical research. As a University of Texas alumnus and a founding board member of TSCR, I feel strongly that it is the responsibility of our state leaders, policymakers, and the University of Texas System to take a leadership role and give hope for a better quality of life to more than 1.2 million Texans living with a chronic disease or life altering injury.

Charles Schotz received his B.A. in government in 1967. Schotz manages MTEX LLC, a consultant firm in Aus- tin, and is a founding board member of Texans for Stem Cell Research.