- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2006

BALTIMORE — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has announced more appointees to a new state stem-cell-research commission and says science will dictate which research in this politically sensitive issue will get funded.

However, politics and religion will still be part of the mix.

One of four new appointees by Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said Thursday he is against the use of embryonic stem cells.

Federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research, which supporters say holds the promise of treating or curing a number of diseases, has been sharply restricted by President Bush. The president has restricted the research to stem-cell lines created before his Aug. 9, 2001 order. In response, Maryland and other states have approved funding for stem-cell research, including embryonic-stem-cell research.

Ehrlich appointee Joseph Capizzi, a professor at Catholic University, said he is “without question” opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells.

Mr. Capizzi anticipates being outvoted when commission members decide which studies to fund but said his job is “to try to win the ones I’m able to win.”

Mr. Ehrlich said the commission, which will be an independent unit within the Maryland Technology Development Corp., will “dictate the most appropriate areas for dollars.”

“There is so much promise it did not deserve to ever be bogged down with abortion politics or divisiveness to any extent,” he said.

Embryonic stem cells are master cells that can form every other cell in the body. Because of that ability, researchers say the cells may lead to cures and treatments for a number of diseases, conditions and injuries. While adult stem cells also exist, researchers say they are more limited.

Obtaining embryonic stem cells for research kills the embryo from which they are taken, which many religious groups oppose. Supporters say the stem cells can be obtained from unused embryos created for in vitro fertilization that would otherwise be destroyed.

The new Maryland commission will award $15 million in state funding for the politically sensitive research. However, it is not clear when the first Maryland grants will be awarded or whether money will go to embryonic-stem-cell research.

Commission member Gloria Marrow is one of four members appointed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Calvert and Prince George’s Democrat, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

Mrs. Marrow said she supports embryonic-stem-cell research but understands the religious objections.

“I have friends who are opposed to it even now, but I’m going to help them to understand, I hope, what it’s all about,” she said.

The other members of the 15-member commission were named by Johns Hopkins University, the University System of Maryland and Maryland’s attorney general.

Mr. Ehrlich has also appointed Bowen Weisheit Jr., a member of the board of the Maryland Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; Dr. Jack Chow, a biotechnology expert and former assistant director general of the World Health Organization; and Rabbi Joel Zaiman, a scholar at the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies.

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