Did you know that a brand new CIRM-funded research facility has opened up on the campus of the University of California at Irvine (UCI)? This facility was recently at the intersection of two aspects of LLDF work: opposition to human embryonic stem cell research and defending the legal rights of those who speak out against such atrocities.

On May 14, 2010, Survivors, a Christian pro-life organization dedicated to activating and educating high school and college age individuals, was present to protest the dedication of this expansive facility that touts its reputation in the area of human embryonic stem cell research. The group was there to share a message that human embryonic stem cell research kills human lives!

The pro-life activists consulted the Life Legal Defense Foundation concerning their free speech rights prior to the planned demonstration. Despite several attempts by the police to move the demonstrators away from the dedication ceremony, the Survivors were able to make their voices heard on the UCI campus, and LLDF attorneys were on hand to answer calls and speak with law enforcement on the day of the event. We at LLDF were proud to defend these brave activists’ rights to speak the truth and to stand against the reckless destruction of life at the new facility.

As to the facility itself, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was the major supplier of funding ($27.2 million), and the facility will be called “Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute.” The institute will serve as a hub for embryonic stem cell research and education in the region and house the Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center. (http://today.uci.edu/news/2010/05/nr_stemcellbuilding_100506.php)

UCI’s recent stem cell research efforts include an experimental therapy developed by neuroscientist Hans Keirstead that claims to restore bodily function lost to spinal cord injury. This therapy has formed the basis of the first federally approved embryonic stem cell clinical trial in humans. (http://www.lifenews.com/bio2710.html) Kierstead teamed up with Geron Corporation to conduct the human trial on 10 spinal cord patients by treating them with an experimental drug containing human embryonic stem cells.

In a report issued earlier this year, we learned that Geron Corporation timed the submission of its application to the Food and Drug Administration to become the first to engage in human trials of embryonic stem cells with a trigger so it would be considered during the Obama administration, an ally in the campaign to destroy human life in the name of reckless scientific experimentation. (http://www.lifenews.com/bio3055.html)

In August 2009, however, the FDA halted this clinical human trial in order to review new data from studies of the therapy. (http://www.geron.com/media/pressview.aspx?id=1187, http://www.geron.com/media/pressview.aspx?id=1188) Scientists say that when used in animal research, injections of embryonic stem cells formed tumors afterward and prompted the immune system of the intended recipients to reject the cells. These problems associated with the animals in Geron’s studies are what prompted the FDA to put the human trials on hold.

This problematic therapy is the very therapy that was developed at UCI by Kierstead. The new “Sue & Bill Gross Hall: A CIRM Institute” is where Kierstead will work to try to assuage the FDA’s concerns about his spinal cord therapy being used on humans. With what appears to be unlimited funding by CIRM (to the tune of nearly $63 million dollars to date at UCI alone, http://www.cirm.ca.gov/InstitutionList), Kierstead and The Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center may well turn Geron’s goal of resuming the human trials later this year into a reality. Photos: http://lldf.org/images/2010MayIrvine_protest2.jpg