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NJ to Begin Building Stem Cell Research Facility


New Jersey on Tuesday will mark the start of construction on what is being hailed as a world-class stem cell research facility paid for with public money.

The $150 million, 18-story tower is to be built on a parking lot in downtown New Brunswick next to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, near Rutgers University, several other schools and hospitals and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

The building is to have facilities for research, clinical study and outpatient treatment and is expected to be completed in spring 2011.

Scientists say stem cell research may hold the key to treatments that could help people who are paralyzed or have illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson’s.

The money to build the facility was included in legislation signed into law in December 2006.

It also authorized $50 million to build stem cell research facilities at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, $50 million on a biomedical research center in Camden, $10 million to support research at the Garden State Cancer Center in Belleville and $10 million to do the same at the Eli Katz Umbilical Cord Blood Program in Allendale.

The state recently approved predevelopment work on the Camden and Belleville facilities.

Alissa L. Johnson, of the Genetic Technologies Project for National Conference of State Legislatures, said New Jersey appears to be the first state to use public money to construct stem cell research facilities.

The New Brunswick facility will be a collaborative effort between The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers University.

It will be named for Christopher Reeve, a Princeton native who promoted stem cell research after he was paralyzed in a 1995 horse riding accident. Reeve died in 2004 at age 52.

A Rutgers University report released Monday has found the state’s investment in stem cell research could bring $2.2 billion in economic activity, 30,000 new jobs and $115 million in new state tax revenue from 2009 to 2025.

“The impact of our stem cell investments is dramatic in terms of revolutionizing health care treatment and protecting the lifeblood of our economy our pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries,” said Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex.

Abortion foes, who oppose embryonic stem cell research because it destroys human embryos, decried the plans and have filed a lawsuit against the state to block it from asking voters next month whether to approve borrowing $450 million for stem cell research grants.

An appeals court is expected to decide the lawsuit soon.

Marie Tasy, the executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, which filed the lawsuit, charged supporters of state investment in stem cell research with “shamelessly exploiting the sick and infirmed with empty promises of miracle cures and false economic benefits.”

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