As reported in Forbes, many pro-stem cell billionaires are picking up the cause and heavily donating to research projects to develop stem cell therapies. Following the Bush Administration’s further constraints of funding, and limited federal stem cell lines (which now contain a woeful number of defects), universities and foundations were forced to set up off-site labs in Singapore or Europe—and to raise private funds. Enter wealthy, scientifically-concerned people–many of whom are within the Republican party.
Eli Broad sees it as a great way to save lives–and he is tapping his $6 billion fortune to help. Sidestepping the ban on federal funding of most stem-cell experiments imposed by President Bush five years ago, Broad, the founder of builder KB Home, gave $25 million in February to the University of Southern California to erect a stem-cell building.
Other major donors include Michael Bloomberg (billionaire mayor of NYC pledged $100 million), Bill and Melinda Gates, Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, Ray Dolby (of Dolby Sound Systems), Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and countless celebs such as Michael J. Fox.
Futhermore, the fear of privately-funded stem cell labs interacting with NIH cohorts has killed the ability to collaborate:
(Dr.) Melton landed enough money to start a separate lab, and he works on turning his stem line into insulin-producing cells to study where they go wrong in diabetics. But half his budget goes to redundant lab gear and overhead he wouldn’t need if it weren’t for the NIH rules against stem-cell funding. His stem-cell colleague at Harvard, M. Wiliam Lensch, uses only private funding from Harvard but worries about getting in trouble if he merely talks to NIH-funded peers in his lab.
At Memorial Sloan-Kettering, stem-cell biologist Lorenz Studer has received money from Project A.L.S. and the Starr and Michael J. Fox charities (Fox, the actor, has Parkinson’s). He cautiously puts yellow stickers on every piece of equipment used for banned experiments to inoculate his operation from any NIH contact. His grad students put stickers on wastebaskets to mock the NIH.
A few billionaires’ donations:
Michael Bloomberg: A reported $100 million gift to alma mater Johns Hopkins included cash for its stem-cell institute. At a speech there, he lambasted the feds for not funding the research.
Eli Broad: Gave $25 million to build a stem-cell building at USC. More gifts could be coming. A big supporter of the California proposition that could give researchers $3 billion.
Ray Dolby: With wife Dagmar gave $16 million to UCSF to help build a new stem-cell research center. Has remained quiet about his gift.
Larry Ellison: Through his medical foundation, has given almost $4 million to various embryonic stem-cell projects.
Bill Gates: He and wife Melinda donated $400,000 to the campaign to support California embryonic stem-cell proposition. Their foundation has given a $1.9 million grant to AIDS research at China’s Peking University that uses human embryonic stem cells.
Pierre Omidyar: He and wife Pamela donated a combined $1 million to the campaign supporting the California ballot proposition.
(Hat tip to Bob Abu for the story.)