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Fri, Aug 27, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Gates, other high-profile donors back stem cell research

AP , SAN FRANCISCO

Microsoft Corp chairman Bill Gates contributed US$400,000 to the campaign backing a Califor-nia ballot measure that would make billions of dollars available for human embryonic stem cell research and cloning projects in the state, according to campaign records.

Gates is the latest billionaire to contribute to a campaign that has amassed more than US$12 million in support of Proposition 71, which would have the state borrow US$3 billion to fund the controversial research over 10 years.

Cloning projects solely for research would be funded, but cloning programs to create babies would be barred.

Only two California measures on the Nov. 2 ballot, each related to gambling, have attracted more campaign contributions.

EBay Inc founder Omar Omidyar and his wife have contributed US$1 million in support of Proposition 71; others supporting the campaign include venture capitalists, Hollywood celebrities and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation have also made big contributions to the campaign.

"Bill believes in the promise of science and research and development to create new ways to improve health and well-being around the world," said Joe Cerrell, a Gates family spokesman.

The US$27 billion Gates Foundation is one of the world's largest philanthropic organizations dedicated to curing diseases.

The campaign to defeat Proposition 71 has garnered just US$15,000 in contributions.

Human embryonic stem cells are created in the first days after conception and turn into all the cells, tissues and organs that make up a human body.

Many scientists believe stem cells hold vast promise for treating an array of diseases from diabetes to Parkinson's.

Stem cells can potentially grow into any type of human tissue, and scientists hope to be able to direct the "blank" cells to grow into specific cell types needed for transplant.

Stem cells are harvested from days-old embryos, which are destroyed in the process. That's why many conservative groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, oppose the research.

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