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N.J. adds $10m to stem-cell push

State competing for research work

Governor Jon S. Corzine said the money is a vital invest- ment in lifesaving research. Governor Jon S. Corzine said the money is a vital invest- ment in lifesaving research. (mel evans/associated press)

TRENTON, N.J. -- Governor Jon S. Corzine yesterday pledged $10 million in public funding for stem-cell studies, as New Jersey competes against other states, including California, to become a national center for the research.

Corzine announced $7 million in grant money for construction of facilities for embryonic stem-cell research and $3 million for adult stem-cell research grants. Last week, state lawmakers approved $270 million to build stem-cell research centers.

"These grants, combined with the recently passed stem-cell legislation, represent a serious and vital investment in this lifesaving research," Corzine said in a statement. "In the absence of support at the federal level, New Jersey's commitment will ensure our continuing status as the medicine chest to the nation and the world."

The first-term Democrat said yesterday that he plans to sign the stem-cell legislation this week, as well as measures to authorize civil unions for gay couples and grant intravenous drug users access to clean needles.

Corzine said the stem-cell money, which was included in the fiscal 2007 budget, is double what the state spent last year. The grants will be administered by the state's Commission on Science and Technology.

Institutions have until Feb. 28 to submit letters of interest; full applications are due March 8. Grants will be awarded in June, Corzine said.

"Corzine has, quite literally, redoubled our efforts to encourage the best and brightest minds in the state to pursue stem-cell research," said Assemblyman Neil Cohen, sponsor of the 2004 law legalizing embryonic and adult stem-cell research in New Jersey.

Cohen, a Union Democrat, also sponsored the measure approved Dec. 14 by the Legislature, to direct $270 million for construction of stem-cell research centers throughout New Jersey. Cohen expects lawmakers to vote on the second portion of a $500 million stem-cell financing plan in January or February.

New Jersey has one of the biggest biomedical and pharmaceutical industries in the nation. Many Democrats, who control both houses of New Jersey's Legislature as well as the governor's office, support stem-cell programs.

President Bush in 2001 cut off federal funding for most research involving embryonic stem-cells, setting off a rush by states including California, New Jersey, and Connecticut to lure potentially lucrative funding.

Scientists say stem-cell research could lead to cures for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and spinal cord damage. Opponents have equated the destruction of human embryos in some research with the taking of a potential life.

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