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Stanford Report, August 31. 2001

Statement by President John Hennessy on Jim Clark's stem cell announcement

Following is President John Hennessy's response to Jim Clark's announcement that he will suspend funding of a donation to Stanford to protest federal policy on stem cell research.

Today, Jim Clark has announced that he will suspend payment on $60 million of his $150 million pledge to create a center for biomedical science and engineering research at Stanford. The suspension of his pledge is to protest evolving federal policies and restrictions on stem cell research and potentially on non-reproductive cloning. While we are saddened by Mr. Clark's decision, we are deeply grateful for the $90 million he already has committed to the James H. Clark Center for Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, and we appreciate his strong feelings on this subject.

An architect's rendering of the Clark Center. Credit: Foster and Partners

The Clark Center is at the core of a broad-based interdisciplinary initiative at Stanford called Bio-X. Bio-X will bring together researchers from the biosciences, physical sciences and engineering to focus on interdisciplinary biomedical research. The past two years have seen tremendous growth in the Bio-X program. Construction of the 225,000-square-foot Clark Center is under way. When occupied in 2003, the center will accommodate about 50 faculty from a wide range of disciplines. Mr. Clark's initial $90 million gift will allow us to continue to build this vital center and accelerate important interdisciplinary research at Stanford.

Most of the activities planned for Bio-X and the Clark Center will be unaffected by the recent federal decisions. As Channing Robertson, co-director of Bio-X and professor of chemical engineering, points out, stem cell research is only one component of a much broader vision for the program. “The Bio-X executive committee is considering a number of research areas: molecular biophysics, proteomics, genomics, microbial biology, complex systems and neurosciences, biocomputation, biodesign, robotics, and molecular and cellular imaging,” he reports.

Paul Berg, a professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his pioneering work with recombinant DNA, observed that “Stanford's efforts in human embryonic stem cell research will proceed with vigor in spite of President Bush's policy limiting the scope of that effort.” Many scientists at Stanford and elsewhere, however, are justifiably concerned that the long-term impact of the restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research could slow down the rate of progress in this promising area. Similarly, should a ban on non-reproductive cloning be enacted, potentially important new directions for clinical therapies would be prohibited.

The advance of scientific knowledge at Stanford and other research universities is the product of the combined efforts of faculty, students, staff, the federal government and visionary philanthropists, such as Mr. Clark. Given the quality and dedication of our faculty and students, the myriad opportunities that remain and the compelling nature of the research, I can say definitively that the Bio-X project will not only continue, it will thrive and grow at Stanford, and the Clark Center will play a key role in this activity.

Furthermore, we are hopeful that continued progress in stem cell research, combined with compelling clinical applications, will lead to an evolution of government policy and eventually to a resumption of the funding of Mr. Clark's pledge to Stanford.