Stem Cell/New Cures Connection Kick Off

9/14/2005

Jon S. Corzine
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Hackensack Hospital
9/14/05
Embryonic Stem Cell Research: New Cures Connection Kickoff

Let me thank John Ferguson and Hackensack Medical Center, one of the nation’s premier teaching hospitals, for hosting today’s event. I also want to acknowledge Commissioner Fred Jacobs for joining us here, along with the families, advocates, community leaders, researchers, and medical professionals who come together today as we kickoff the New Cures Connection.

The New Cures Connection is about translating stem cell research into the cures for the ailments of humanity. It’s about opportunity and about hope.

Imagine a future where no child struggles with juvenile diabetes…
…or where heart tissue will regenerate and heart attacks will no longer be the leading cause of death…
…or where my mom, your mom, and mothers around the globe will no longer suffer the debilitation of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Today we stand united in our determination to see the promise of embryonic stem cell research become a reality…to prevent, to treat, and to cure the incurable.

With your help in the next four years, we will put New Jersey – the medicine chest for the nation and the world – at the leading edge of the most promising medical advances of our generation.

As Americans, we recognize the power of medical science to push the limits of what is possible. We are the country that eradicated polio and relegated smallpox to a Petrie dish. New Jersey was at the leading edge then, and it should be now. Americans invented the antibiotics that keep infections at bay and the operations that let us live longer, more productive lives.

We cannot let other afflictions continue to confound medical science and cause pain and anguish for so many human beings.

Until we are satisfied that no breakthrough is left undiscovered and no person suffers in vain – we must continue to invest in scientific exploration and transcend the outer bounds of our medical knowledge and experience.

The best scientific minds in our state and our country believe that by harnessing the power of embryonic stem cells, there are few diseases we cannot conquer.

While some may disagree, I believe we have a moral obligation to give our researchers the resources they need to pursue their life-enhancing and life-saving mission wherever it takes them.

When we know we can improve the state of the human condition through advances in medicine, we have no moral right to stand aside.

Embryonic stem cell research holds the promise of overcoming the most debilitating degenerative conditions. Parkinson’s. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Multiple Sclerosis. Alzheimer’s And many others. It could help us take on AIDS, combat heart disease, and fight cancer.

As with all medical research, the ultimate success or failure of each effort cannot be predicted with certainty at the start. We are only beginning to explore the curative powers of embryonic stem cells.

But there is every reason to be optimistic as we move ahead.

It’s a dream that Christopher Reeve expressed so eloquently through his life, and is shared by so many of the people here today.

Researchers have already coaxed embryonic stem cells – the precursors to all human tissue – into becoming nerve cells, bone, and heart muscles in laboratory animals.

Just imagine what a few nerve cells could do for a person with a spinal cord injury or Parkinson’s.

As many families here will tell you, embryonic stem cell research represents the most promising lead they have.

It is their hope.

A sweeping majority of medical researchers – 72% according to one recent survey – believe this research will one day lead to revolutionary cures and treatments.

According to a study by the Bloustein School at Rutgers, curing Alzheimer’s could prevent three thousand premature deaths in New Jersey each year and save millions of dollars in care and treatment.

Simply put, we must give our brightest and best scientists the resources and the opportunity to explore this new frontier.

With so much at stake, we must not let politics and ideology deny the hopes and prayers of thousands.

In my view, we are long past a point where it’s appropriate to debate whether to support this research. Instead –we owe it to the people in this room and voters across New Jersey to set out precisely what we plan to do to ensure that this important and innovative research succeeds. At the federal level, progress has been stalled by a misguided, ideologically motivated administration. Despite the views of the medical and scientific communities and the protest even from members of his own party – the President has consigned federal funding to a narrow group of rapidly degrading embryonic stem cell lines. It’s bad science, bad medicine, and it won’t work.

Doctors Percora and Breslauer can go into more of the technical details when they speak later.

But suffice it to say that the constraints imposed on ethical and acceptable research are so severely limiting that real progress is all but impossible.

The Administration won’t call it a ban, but that’s exactly what this policy amounts to.

For people waiting for a miracle: a miracle that is almost here, time is too precious to let a failure of national leadership stand in the way.

With the Federal government missing in action, New Jersey must lead in the effort to conquer disease through stem cell research. With your help, I know we will.

Every Election is about choices, and this year is no exception.

My opponent and I have starkly different views on the appropriate role of our state in promoting embryonic stem cell research. Despite the increasing number of respected conservatives across America – like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah – who have broken with the Bush Administration’s ideological position on stem cell research, my opponent favors the president’s ban. In comments at a New Jersey Pro-Life Coalition Dinner, Mr. Forrester said that, when it comes to embryonic stem cell research – and I quote: “I think the President’s handling of this issue is in the right.”

I believe President Bush got it exactly wrong.

Later my opponent explained that he also opposes dedicating any state funds at all to promote embryonic stem cell research and that he opposes Governor Codey efforts in this regard.

I believe Mr. Forrester got that exactly wrong.

I don’t just want research to continue in New Jersey. I want our state to become the dominant player in the international crusade to mine the benefits of stem cells to improve the human condition.

Since 2001, I have challenged the Bush Administration to expand federal funding for that effort.

As Governor, I will bring that same commitment to advance this research in New Jersey. I am proud to stand with Governor Codey in this effort. If given the chance, I plan to pick up where he leaves off, and go even further.

At the very outset of this campaign, I made my commitment to advancing science in New Jersey clear. In March, I proposed the Edison Innovation Fund, a ballot initiative to advance the path-breaking research of the 21st Century. With the voters’ approval, we will invest public money to attract private capital and multiply our capacity to find and foster the new technologies that will drive the new economy and breakthroughs in health care.

As I explained then, embryonic stem cell research is one of the most exciting growth industries of the future – most importantly a chance to save lives, but also an opportunity for economic benefit.

As I said, New Jersey is “the Medicine Chest” for America. We are the “cure corridor” – with more pharmaceutical companies here than anywhere and some of the finest research institutions in the world. By partnering with these companies, we can increase the investment in public and private stem cell research and lessen the chilling effect of the Bush ban on federal funding.

For families confronting life-threatening diseases, every moment that passes without a cure is an eternity. Time is of the essence.

The New Cures Connection is not just a group – it’s a movement motivated by a singular purpose: to make New Jersey the international leader in developing stem cell therapies to fight disease.

I fundamentally believe that the success of this and any public investment depends on the support of the people, and I will join with you in building that support.

Today’s event marks the beginning of an extended discussion that will continue at New Cures Connection house parties across the state, in community meetings, and at public debates.

I encourage everyone to sign the pledge to join the New Cure Connection and work together in the coming months and years to make New Jersey the world leader in stem cell research.

We are a state of excellence, and we have the capacity to be just that: the world leader in embryonic stem cell research.

For more information, I ask you to visit CorzineForGovernor.com/stemcells.

When I led Goldman Sachs, its employees rated it one of the ten best places to work in America. Now, let’s make New Jersey the best and healthiest place in America to grow up, go to school, live, work, and retire with dignity.

By promoting stem cell research, we can eventually deliver life-saving cures. But we can deliver another, more immediate benefit: a reason for hope.

Now it is my distinct honor to introduce Carl Riccio who will talk from personal experience about what embryonic stem cell research means for him.