Technology

Reaching Into The Lab: Illinois Puts An Added Value On Stem Cell Scientists

States are accustomed to poaching businesses from one another using tax breaks. In the biotech era, however, it may be enough to poach scientists.
by | November 2005
 

States are accustomed to poaching businesses from one another using tax breaks. In the biotech era, however, it may be enough to poach scientists.

Or at least it's worth a try. Top researchers can command millions of dollars in grants. More important, prestige has a way of attracting even more scientists, who tend to orbit around funding and big thinkers.

This was Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's reasoning for sending a letter in August to dozens of scientists in neighboring Missouri. Blagojevich had recently approved $10 million in state grants to be used for embryonic stem-cell research. He wanted the researchers to consider moving to Illinois to get in on the action. "We encourage you to explore the possibility of moving to Illinois...where many of your colleagues have found the freedom to explore the promise of stem-cell research," the governor wrote.

Blagojevich's appeal, which hasn't bagged any scientists yet, implicitly noted the difference between the political climate in Illinois and Missouri. For the past three years, a Missouri state senator has pushed a bill intended to ban embryonic stem-cell research. The bill has never made it to the Senate floor. But a perception among Missouri scientists persists that the state is lukewarm, if not hostile, toward the controversial research.

To counter any misunderstandings, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt shot back at Blagojevich with his own letter to his state's scientists. Blunt opposes abortion, which some conservatives see as a closely related issue. But he supports embryonic stem-cell research, and he wanted to make that point clear. "I am wholly committed to ensuring that Missouri maintains an environment that not only fosters but also attracts responsible and innovative scientific research," Blunt wrote.

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