By JENN BOGDAN
LAUREL (Dec. 3, 2008)—Maryland will host the 2009 World Stem Cell Summit next September in Baltimore, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Wednesday at the state's first stem cell research symposium.
The three-day summit, which will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center, is expected to bring in 1,500 stem cell researchers, business leaders and policymakers from across the globe to discuss the future of the field.
"I'm very, very grateful to all of those who made the decision to come to Maryland," said O'Malley, speaking at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. "It follows a great deal of recognition that we've been receiving over the efforts that we've made together."
Summit attendees are expected to discuss stem cell policy issues, including how to legally transport stem cells across state lines, said Bernard Siegel, executive director of the Florida-based Genetics Policy Institute, which is organizing the event.
Currently, laws regulating transportation of stem cells vary from state to state, often making transport across state lines difficult.
The summit will include a day for the public to view the participants' research. Summit organizers said a day for public viewing is essential since public support can elect leaders who will fund future research.
Siegel called Maryland an "obvious choice" as host state in light of O'Malley's strong financial support for stem cell research.
Stem cells have the potential to develop into different types of cells in the body, which scientists hope will allow for the repair of damaged tissue. But research on the cells, particularly embryonic stem cells, is controversial because opponents say scientists are sometimes experimenting with embryos viable for human life.
The state has allocated $56 million to stem cell research since O'Malley took office. However, Maryland's stem cell research fund for 2009 took a $1 million cut in the governor's last round of budget reductions in October.
Major medical research institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, have received much of the state's money for stem cell research.
"We believe in the power and potential of stem cell research in Maryland," O'Malley said. "Therefore, we're investing in this groundbreaking science because we feel in our hearts a compelling need to unleash the healing sciences to the most fragile of our neighbors all around this world of ours."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.