Entrepreneur upset by limits on stem-cell study

From: Olga Bourlin (fauxever@sprynet.com)
Date: Fri Aug 31 2001 - 10:25:32 MDT

Backlash time:


Donor cuts off $60 million to Stanford
            Entrepreneur upset by limits on stem-cell study

            Kelly St. John, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, August 31, 2001
            Netscape founder Jim Clark is withholding $60 million of his $150
            million contribution toward a biomedical research center at Stanford
            University in protest of federal restrictions on stem cell research.

            The billionaire entrepreneur made his startling announcement in an
            opinion piece published in this morning's New York Times. Stanford
            University President John Hennessy, who was told in advance of
            Clark's decision, alerted his faculty late yesterday.
            The university has already broken ground on the center, which will
            marry several science and engineering disciplines to develop new
            cures for disease. The center is named in Clark's honor.
            "Congress and the president are thwarting part of the intended
            purpose of this center by supporting restrictions on stem cell
            research and cloning," Clark wrote in his op-ed article.
            "It now seems that creating genetically compatible new skin cells
            for burn victims, pancreas cells for diabetics, nerve cells for
            those with spinal cord injuries and many, many other potential
            advances will soon be illegal in the United States."
            Clark did not shut the door to reinstating the gift in the future.
            Instead, he said, he is suspending his pledge "pending the outcome
            of political deliberations."
            University officials were brisk last night and refused to comment on
            Clark's decision.
            In a prepared statement to be released today, Stanford President
            Hennessy said the university is "saddened by Mr. Clark's decision."
            "Mr. Clark's initial $90 million gift will allow us to continue to
            build this vital center," Hennessy said.
            Stanford scientists will continue to pursue embryonic stem cell
            research, Hennessy wrote, but they are "justifiably concerned" that
            restrictions on stem cell research and a potential ban on
            nonreproductive cloning will slow progress for promising clinical
            "We are hopeful that continued progress in stem cell research . . .
            will lead to an evolution of government policy and eventually to a
            resumption of the funding of Mr. Clark's pledge," it said.
            Clark was an associate professor of electrical engineering at
            Stanford from 1979 to 1982.
            In 1999, the maverick visionary who founded Silicon Graphics,
            Netscape, Healtheon and MyCFO pledged $150 million to build the
            research center -- known informally as "Bio-X."
            At that time, Clark's gift was the largest single donation to
            Stanford. He said he hoped the gift would help merge new
            technologies with advances in gene splicing and tissue growth.
            Construction on the 225,000-square-foot building is already under
            way, and it should be completed by 2003. In 1999, university
            officials estimated it would cost more than $200 million to
            Among the center's goals is the integration of basic and applied
            sciences to develop better artificial ears, eyes and other
            prosthetic devices. By merging new technologies with advances in
            tissue growth, researchers hope to grow heart cells or even entirely
            new hearts and other organs.
            Other areas of work include gene splicing advances to alter
            undesirable genetic characteristics like a predisposition for sickle
            cell anemia.
            In his statement to university colleagues, Hennessy said Clark
            reassured him that the decision to suspend the donation has nothing
            to do with Stanford.
            Indeed, in his Times op-ed piece, Clark had strong words about
            President Bush's Aug. 9 decision that federal funding will be
            available for research on human embryonic stem cells, but only with
            cell cultures established before that date.
            Bush said he will not allow federal money to pay for the study of
            stem cells derived from new embryos, even if they were created in
            fertility clinics that will otherwise be discarded.
            "Who can say, in such a nascent field, that existing lines will not
            die, that they will not become contaminated, or that they have not
            already specialized in unknown ways?" Clark wrote.
            "With no prospect of federal support, significant research in a
            field of scientific inquiry like stem cell research will stop."
            Researchers say stem cells taken from human embryos can also
            potentially be developed to repair damage caused by Parkinson's
            disease, strokes and other maladies.
            Chronicle staff writer Peter Hartlaub contributed to this report. /
            E-mail Kelly St. John at kstjohn@sfchronicle.com.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:22 MDT