Making the stem cell industry grow — that’s the focus of the World Stem Cell Summit that began Monday the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

Governor Jennifer Granholm told attendees that Michigan can lead in developing the cures, as part of what will become an $8 billion industry. But, she said efforts must also continue to educate people in Michigan to be part of it.

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“What we’ve done by passing Proposal 2 we have become ‘pro-cure’ that we can be the place that can help find cures for cancer, and diabetes, ” she said.

Stem cell research is expected to become an $8 billion dollar industry, and the governor wants to see Michigan get it’s piece of the pie to diversify the state’s economy.

“We’re starting to see that, people may not feel that until they see the unemployment rate is normal and we are working as fast as we can to bring in jobs that will replace those that have been lost in manufacturing,” she said.

The governor said efforts must continue to encourage today’s students to become tomorrow’s scientists.

Life sciences is one of six sectors being targeted as the state continues to retool its economy. Michigan is now considered one of the leaders in stem cell research with the passage of Proposal Two in 2008.

Stem cell research offers hope for cures for diseases where, before, there was no hope. That’s according to Michigan Citizens for Stem Cells Research and Cures President Sherry Mark.

Mark, who will be presenting research at the summit, will be among more than 1,200 business, academic and government leaders from 25 countries who are expected to attend the three-day summit.

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Mark told WWJ she feels it’s important to remember that the embryos used in the research would have been destroyed anyway.

“It’s the future of cures,” Mark told WWJ’s Beth Fisher. “For instance, instead of testing out medications on a patient, you can use an embryonic stem cell, which is just a five-day-old group of cells and you can test medications on that. So we can try and find a cure for – cure and treatments for diseases – using a little cell rather than using a person,” Mark said.

The founder executive director of the World Stem Cell Summit Bernard Siegel said Michigan’s is in the best position to take advantage of this growing industry with the university research centers and hospitals already here.

“There’s no better place I can imagine for businesses looking for American  collaborators to come. They can get in at a very low reasonable prices that have all these facilities available to them. It’s really a remarkable opportunity,” Siegel said.

Assistant professor of pediatric neurology and researcher at Wayne State University Graham Parker said they have the opportunity to develop lines of stem cells that are reproducable and usable on a commercial basis.

“We’ve made a choice to do our research in Detroit and that tells you a lot about how Detroit is being viewed by the rest of the world,” Parker said. “The fact the GPI (Genetics Policy Institute) chose Detroit for this conference speaks volumes about what we are doing here.”

Siegel points out the conference would not be here if not for the 2008 approval of Proposal 2, to allow stem cell research. The 3-day conference is expected to bring in a million dollars to Detroit. 

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