University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, stem cell researcher Sean Morrison, an outspoken proponent of allowing research on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in the state, has been wooed to Texas by its $3 billion state cancer research program. But he admits that the Lone Star state may be no more welcoming of research on embryonic stem cells.
Morrison, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will head a pediatric cancer initiative at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The university recruited him with one of the first awards for established investigators from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), a $3 billion, 10-year cancer research fund along the lines of California's stem cell initiative.
Although Morrison doesn't study embryonic stem cells—his area is adult stem cells, including how they develop into cancer cells—he pushed for a 2008 ballot proposal in Michigan that overturned a law restricting hESC research. He told The Detroit News yesterday: "While I have been spending the last five to six years arguing with the Legislature about what kind of research would be permitted in the state, in Texas they were looking for ways to invest billions of dollars into medical research."
But Texas has not exactly embraced research on embryonic stem cells, either. As this primer from Rice University in Houston notes, the state is one of 18 that has no policy on the controversial topic. Several bills that would restrict hESC research have been introduced, but none has become law.