"There's little doubt that California will become a major center worldwide for stem cell research," says Dr. Hall. He's heard anecdotally that undergraduate and graduate students, who want to study stem cell research, are applying only to California schools.
Proposition 71 has also raised concerns that stem cell researchers in other states will be drawn to California by the promise of substantial funds. In fact, one of the goals of Proposition 71 is to "recruit the highest scientific and medical talent in the United States."
"That proposition is aimed at us," says Michael Sussman, Ph.D., director of the University of Wisconsin Biotechnology Center in Madison. He sees Proposition 71 as a wake-up call for Wisconsin and other states to develop programs to attract and keep talented scientists.
Wisconsin has a rich history in stem cell research, ever since James Thomson, Ph.D., led a team in 1998 that first isolated and grew human embryonic stem cells. Another University of Wisconsin scientist, Su-Chun Zhang, recently achieved the difficult task of coaxing stem cells to develop into motor neurons.
About 30 groups at the University of Wisconsin carry out diverse studies using stem cells. Although they are not backed by $3 billion, University of Wisconsin researchers have their own angel.
The actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, has made several grants amounting to $2 to $3 million through the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which he established to find a cure for Parkinson's disease. Fox also visits the Wisconsin laboratories, which he describes as "amazing facilities."
A few weeks after Proposition 71 passed in California, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle proposed a plan to fund a new $750 million research facility, called the Institute for Discovery, that would unite biologists, engineers, computer scientists, and others to fuel interdisciplinary research into stem cells, nanotechnology, and other areas.
"Wisconsin is well known for creating discoveries in stem cells and other research, and we'll continue doing that," says Dr. Sussman, who recently turned down a job offer from a California university.
Companies and other universities have also tried to recruit Dr. Thomson, but he stays in Wisconsin. Researchers are recruited continually in academia, "but money is only one part of going or coming," Dr. Sussman says.