NJIT Faculty, Staff and Students
Robert A. Altenkirch
December 11, 2005
Status of NJ stem cell research funding and NJIT

You may have recently learned from the press that the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly have reached a compromise agreement on funding for stem cell research facilities that allocates $50 million to NJIT. During the last session of the Legislature, the Capital Facilities Financing Act of 2005 allocated $150 million for constructing a stem cell research facility in New Brunswick, but the act, which was passed in the Senate, did not come out of Committee in the Assembly.

Since then, under the leadership of Don Sebastian, Senior Vice President for Research and Development, many of you have been involved in an ongoing series of workshops and team building exercises that we have conducted in collaboration with the NJ Stem Cell Research and Education Foundation. Those efforts, coupled with the research successes that our faculty have had in adult stem cell research, led to NJIT faculty involvement in 25 of 70 proposals submitted in collaboration with the Public Health Research Institute, the New Jersey Medical School, and the Coriell Institute, to the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology’s recent competition for $5M in stem cell research funding.

The theme that emerges is that the faculty’s stem cell work has broader impact than basic science alone and lays a path to technology outcomes, dramatic health and medical improvements for many individuals, and economic impact. The work caught the attention of Assemblyman Neil Cohen, as he realized the benefits to the State and society, and he took the lead in the Assembly to work with Acting Governor Richard Codey that produced the compromise agreement between the Senate and the Assembly. The agreement would distribute over $200 million of facilities funds from the Capital Facilities Financing Act of 2005 to programs centered in Newark, Camden, and New Brunswick such that NJIT would be responsible for allocating $50 million for a Stem Cell Research Institute to be built in Newark. In addition, the Stem Cell Research Bond Act of 2006 has been introduced in the current lame-duck session of the Legislature that would call for a $350 million bond referendum to support stem cell research in these programs across the state.

While we did not pursue directly facilities funding for our stem cell research work, the potential for a $50 million facility in Newark is certainly excellent news for our evolving life sciences efforts, and we appreciate the recognition of those efforts by Assemblyman Cohen and the Acting Governor. It validates the primary contribution of engineering and the physical sciences to life sciences research, as well as the importance of a well articulated program of transferring technology to society.

In order for the facilities and research program funding outlined here to come to fruition, both the Capital Facilities Financing Act of 2005, reflecting the new compromise distribution, and the Stem Cell Research Bond Act of 2006 would need to pass the Legislature with the Bond Act needing approval by the electorate in November.

Congratulations to all of you who have contributed to positioning NJIT to emerge as a recognized leader in the State in the life sciences and stem cell research in particular. I will keep you apprised of the status of our efforts as the Legislature considers potential State support for stem cell research in New Jersey.