The Wisconsin Technology Council has been on record since 2002 as supporting legislation that encourages high-tech research and company creation, and as opposing restrictions on research that place Wisconsin at a competitive disadvantage. The current debate over fetal tissue research in Wisconsin compels us to reiterate the factors behind our 2002 resolution:
1. Academic researchers who have established an international reputation for their work are driven by a passionate belief that their work will benefit humanity. Many competing institutions are attempting to recruit researchers. If Wisconsin adopts legislation that restricts research, these researchers would likely relocate to an institution in a state or country where no such limitations exist. There will be no net impact on the area of research; it simply will no longer be done in Wisconsin. The adoption of legislation that restricts research will effectively be only symbolic with negative economic and intellectual consequences for the state and its citizens.
2. Technology research in Wisconsin is not conducted in a vacuum. It is performed under the surveillance of ethical and scientific oversight organizations.
3. The unintended consequences of a unilateral Wisconsin restriction on research would likely be devastating to its efforts to build a high-tech economy. Adoption of research restrictions will send a signal that Wisconsin has a hostile regulatory environment for tech-based research. Wisconsin academic institutions and private companies would face new challenges in attracting world-class researchers who might be concerned that their research will be targeted next.
4. Companies and investors will view Wisconsin as having a burdensome regulatory climate and as being a risky place to conduct business. In the process of establishing ineffective regulations, we will undermine one of our greatest strengths, while driving out businesses, including firms that would not have likely been a part of an ethical debate.
Therefore, be it resolved that the Wisconsin Technology Council:
– Opposes the sale of fetal tissue, as currently banned under federal law.
– Supports legal procedures for obtaining fetal tissue from regulated tissue banks.
– Recognizes that researchers across the United States have used fetal tissue since the 1930s to advance medicine. The HEK 293 cell line was derived from a single fetus more than 40 years ago and is still used by researchers everywhere – including nearly 100 labs on the Madison campus.
– Recognizes that such experiments led to development of the polio vaccine, to cite one prominent example. Current studies use fetal tissue to target birth defects and diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes, from muscular dystrophy to Parkinson’s disease, and from immune disorders to killer strains of influenza.
– Recognizes that $76 million in outside research dollars, predominantly from federal sources such as the National Institutes of Health, flow each year to UW-Madison labs that conduct research with fetal tissue. Collectively, those labs employ about 1,400 people.
– Recognizes that poorly drafted legislation related to fetal tissue research would do immediate and long-term damage to Wisconsin’s reputation as a state that welcomes biomedical research. – Recommends that bills under debate in the Wisconsin Legislature should ensure that legacy cell lines are exempt from additional state oversight.
– Recommends those same bills place oversight burdens on the research institutions themselves, which pay to transport and safely store legally obtained tissue, not individual researchers.
– Recommends those same bills not ban the use or criminalize the use of fetal tissue obtained ethically and according to federal law.