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August 28, 2007

Governor Blagojevich signs law reaffirming Illinois' commitment to stem cell research
Legislation permits embryonic stem cell researchers to receive state funds

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a law permanently allowing state money to fund embryonic stem cell research in Illinois.  Senate Bill 4, the Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning Prohibition Act, sponsored by State Senator Jeffrey M. Schoenberg (D-Evanston) and State Representative Tom Cross (R-Plainfield), permits embryonic stem cell researchers to receive state funds and prohibits cloning or the attempt to clone a human being. The legislation comes after the Governor created by Executive Order in 2005 the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI) Program two years ago, and allocating $15 million for stem cell research.
“Stem cell research has limitless potential to help cure devastating diseases – from Parkinson’s to diabetes, and even many forms of cancer.  Since the federal government continues to stall the medical advancements that will come with stem cell research, it is up to Illinois to take action. We are among the nation’s leaders in providing resources for stem cell research, and with this law, we will continue being a leader in this field,” said the Governor.
SB 4 authorizes the Illinois Department of Public Health to administer the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI) Program to provide grants to Illinois medical research institutions for stem cell research.
Gov. Blagojevich created IRMI by executive order, making Illinois the first state in the Midwest, and only the fourth state in the nation, to commit public funds to stem cell research.  The IRMI is designed to issue grants for stem cell research to study therapies, protocols, medical procedures, possible cures for, and potential mitigations of major diseases and injuries; to support all stages of the process of developing cures - from laboratory research through successful clinical trials; and to establish the appropriate regulatory standards for research and facilities development.  The bill also creates the IRMI Oversight Committee to evaluate grant proposals and award funding. The Committee will consist of 7 members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The Committee will:
  • Determine awards based on a competitive peer review process
  • Review the scientific peer review process
  • Develop guidelines concerning the use of the grants according to current best practices
  • Advise IDPH on future use of the grant program
In 2006 Gov. Blagojevich announced $15 million in stem cell research grants, funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) by executive order.  Grants, based on the IRMI panel’s recommendations, were issued to researchers at several Illinois hospitals and research institutions for a variety stem cell projects.
“This issue is one of the most morally compelling challenges facing those of us in the public arena,” said Sen. Schoenberg, the chief Senate sponsor of the new law expanding stem cell research. “Millions of Americans are affected directly or indirectly by chronic illnesses and medical conditions such as juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, cancer and spinal cord injury -- all of which have the potential to be cured by embryonic stem cell research. Illinois is now poised to play a leading role nationally in funding this research, and I'm proud of my role and that of the Governor in achieving this important victory.”
“The promising results of stem cell research for people who suffer from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or juvenile diabetes gives us hope that our parents and our children can enjoy a better life.  I am proud that with this new law Illinois will strengthen it’s commitment to stem cell research and become a leader in these efforts,” said Rep. Cross.
“Allowing public funding for embryonic stem cell research will throw the door wide-open for groundbreaking medical advancements,” said IDPH Director Dr. Eric E. Whitaker.  “Treatment approaches discovered through this research will impact countless lives and be valuable to the health and well-being of all of us.”
Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into many different types of healthy new cells in the body.  As described by the National Institutes of Health, they act like an internal repair system for the body.  Stem cells can divide to replenish other cells for as long as the body is alive.  When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell like a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
Studying stem cells allows doctors to analyze how cells transform into other cells.  Many of the most serious illnesses or birth defects are caused by problems during the transformation process.  Understanding the process better may help doctors discover how to prevent, treat or cure illnesses and conditions.
SB 4 becomes effective January 1, 2008.


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