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Public funding of stem cell research

Re “The stem cell money trap,” Opinion, Nov. 28

Sigrid Fry-Revere is off the mark. Public funding of research is essential for three reasons. First, it removes the profit motive that adds enormous costs to the clinical application of research results. It is responsible for a substantial part of the growing costs of healthcare and guarantees that the results of that research will be in the public domain and available to all. Second, public funding is efficient. Finally, of course we should encourage private not-for-profit funding of stem cell research, but there are nowhere near the resources in the private sector that exist in government to finance such critical and essential research. The cost of bonds to California can be laid right at the foot of the Bush administration, which has forbidden federal funds for the great bulk of needed stem cell research.

ROBERT E. TRANQUADA

Los Angeles

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The writer is a professor emeritus of medicine and public policy at USC.

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Fry-Revere is wrong in asserting that public funding of medical research is wasteful and ineffective. As a result of research funded by the National Institutes of Health, deaths from heart disease have plummeted, AIDS has been transformed from a terminal illness to a chronic condition and many forms of cancer are now treatable and survivable.

This significant progress is attributable to publicly funded research. The private sector is unlikely to risk investment in basic research because it is simply too far away from practical applications, and it is impossible to predict where research breakthroughs will occur.

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Suggesting that the private sector could do a better job shows a callous disregard for the success of federally funded scientists throughout the nation.

LEO T. FURCHT MD

Minneapolis

The writer is a professor and head of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Minnesota, and president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

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