Let me start with the bottom-line. We urge the Congress to exercise extreme caution in fashioning any law on the subject of human cloning. What is at stake here are life-saving technologies, the only hope for thousands of human beings afflicted with Parkinsons disease, diabetes, cancer and other deadly and disabling diseases.
Three of the pending bills, H.R. 922 as introduced by Congressman Ehlers and as modified by his amendment in the House Science Committee, and S. 1599 and S. 1601 introduced by Senators Bond and Lott, respectively, would outlaw or criminalize at least some research on stem cell therapies, technologies that promise much for the alleviation of human suffering. It is clear that all three bills would outlaw or criminalize "customized" stem cell therapy and two of them might also outlaw some or all non-customized stem cell research. I will describe this research in detail in my testimony today.
Some have argued that these bills do not ban any current research, that the research which is banned is very long-term or that there might be alternative ways to create similarly effective therapies. First, research is underway on both somatic cell nuclear transfer and stem cell therapies with the potential to pair these two technologies to create "customized" stem cells and this research is banned by these bills. Second, it would be tragic to ban research which is just beginning and holds such promise to relieve human suffering. All fundamental research seeking to create breakthroughs takes years to develop. This is hardly an argument to ban this research. Third, we have every reason to believe that the research will provide novel and effective treatments for diseases where there is no current therapy available or current therapies are ineffective. The role of biomedical researchers is to give medical doctors as many powerful tools to treat their patients as possible. It is absurd to say that physicians have enough power now to treat and cure disease.
I am one of many researchers who believe that primordial stem cell therapy -- which some researchers refer to as totipotent stem cell therapy -- has the potential to revolutionize medicine with applications as important to human healthcare as antibiotics, vaccines, or even drugs. Origen Therapeutics is focused on primordial stem cell technologies, which I will describe in my testimony. I am staking my future as a scientist and executive on this. It would be tragic to enact a human cloning law that would stifle this research when it is at its earliest basic research stage and it holds such promise to relieve human suffering.
Important ethical questions are raised concerning the cloning of a human being, but we suggest that important ethical questions are also raised about any legislation which would undermine fundamental biomedical research, particularly when the practical applications are so promising.
Basically the problem with some of the pending human cloning bills is that they outlaw or make it a crime to conduct research if it could possibly be related to the cloning of a human being even if it is not, in fact, conducted for that purpose. They confuse what "might possibly be" with what "is" and that which is "potential" with that which is "actual." This is why they are over broad and threaten biomedical research.
There is no rush to legislate here. The FDA has stated that it has full jurisdiction over Dr. Seed and any others who might seek to launch human cloning experiments. We believe that these experiments would be unethical and unsafe and have full confidence that they would not be approved by the FDA. Given the backstop of FDA regulation, the Congress can proceed with measured caution to determine if there is any need for legislative action. If Congress determines that there is no alternative to legislation, it must be careful to focus any proposal on the one issue, human cloning, with no collateral damage to ethical and humanitarian medical research. To focus on human cloning is to focus on the generation of a human being through the transfer of the nucleus of a cell of another human being into an enucleated egg and implanting the product of that transfer into the uterus for gestation and subsequent birth. It is not appropriate to use what some consider to be "must-pass" legislation as a vehicle to pursue another agenda not related to human cloning.