Researchers wary as Republicans vow to end ESC support

Regardless of which side of the partisan divide you find yourself, it's universally recognized in the industry that presidential politics plays a big role in the R&D world. And nowhere is that more true than in the controversial arena of embryonic stem cells.

Companies working on ESC treatments breathed a sigh of relief when Barack Obama won the presidency and soon after made good on his promise to bump federal support for a broad range of their work. Now Republican candidates for the presidency are competing for the conservative vote with strident vows to slam the brakes again. And that could spell a sudden reversal of fortune for a number of developers.

"While many of us in the field end up raising private philanthropy to do the work, it is very important that labs have access to NIH dollars so more research can actually be done,'' Dr. Leonard Zon, director of the stem cell program at Children's Hospital, tells the Boston Globe. But Mitt Romney says he'd end the practice, along with others in the Republican field. Only Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman, Jr., said they would continue federal support for existing cell lines, but no others.

"All this stopping and starting makes it very difficult for research projects to proceed,'' bioethics attorney Michael Werner tells the Globe. "Ultimately, it makes it harder for drug developers to turn this research into new therapies for patients.''

On the other hand, a number of Republicans have been lauded by the biopharma industry for their calls on the FDA for greater consistency in how regulators review drugs. So while one wing of the R&D world may be watching the Republican contest warily, others are clearly hopeful about the long-term impact of a Republican win in 2012. 

- here's the story from the Boston Globe