11/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Maryland's Commitment to Advancing Stem Cell Research

Incredible human breakthroughs in science are helping to reawaken a commitment all across the world to protecting the dignity of every individual. They are igniting a newfound embrace of our shared responsibility to advance the common good. They are instilling a sense in our common humanity that there is a unity to spirit and matter and that the things we do in this lifetime matter.

And they are affirming a higher truth, which proclaims that a society's greatness derives not from its ability to drop smart bombs on its enemies, but in the smart, compassionate, helping hands it is able to extend to our common humanity. The proliferation of what Dr. Jeffrey Sachs calls "weapons of mass salvation."

Stem cell research carries with it some of the greatest potential in humanity's salvation arsenal.

Last week, we announced that Maryland was entering into a new partnership with the State of California to collaborate on stem cell projects, with the goal of using our combined effort to advance this emerging technology even further.

At the same time, we are working to step up our coordination with our federal partners, now that we finally have a President in Barack Obama who believes in science and is committed to unlocking the healing potential we see in new scientific frontiers. To further our collaborative efforts, among other things, we are readjusting our own stem cell projects here in Maryland so that we complement the federal initiatives that are currently underway, rather than duplicating them.

We've invested $56 million in our state stem cell research fund - even in difficult times - and we've done so by sending every dollar directly to our labs and researchers - the people who are working every day in pursuit of breakthroughs, healing and discovery.

While our current fiscal climate hasn't given us the flexibility to do quite as much as we would like to do - and hope to do in better economic times - the investments we have made are significant: currently supporting 141 Stem Cell Research grants, involving more than 350 researchers, physicians, lab technicians, and other personnel, on top of an estimated 700 researchers who are indirectly funded at labs supporting these grants.

In Maryland, our commitment to stem cell research is part of our BioMaryland 2020 initiative, the largest investment any state has committed to the life sciences. Just this month we opened the Maryland Biotechnology Center to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and we are putting a renewed priority on supporting the dreams of emerging bio-entrepreneurs. Whether it is our innovative bioinvestor tax credit, or our 23 technology incubators - one-third of which are biolab capable - we understand the challenges and unique needs of this industry because we understand the promise.

There are more than 400 bioscience companies doing business in Maryland, employing more than 26,000 people.

The Milken Institute ranks our bioscience assets among the highest in America. We lead the nation in the investments we make in the skills, talents, and ingenuity of our people - and as a return on these investments we have what Education Week magazine says are the best public schools in America, fueling one of the nation's most highly skilled workforces.

We rank first in per capita biomedical and health services workers. We have the highest percentage of doctoral scientists and engineers of any workforce in America. And we also have the second highest percentage of professional and technical workers.

Marylanders and the companies for which they work are involved in cutting-edge biopharmaceutical discovery. They create gene-based diagnostics, they work to integrate biologics and nanotechnology into medical devices, and they are making revolutionary advances with new approaches to vaccine development.

The next great discovery or breakthrough may not come overnight and may not take the form we had expected. But I believe in the possibility of progress, and in the possibility and power of seeking the unforeseen.

We live in some truly extraordinary times; times marked both by tremendous peril and by tremendous possibility - a point in our human existence when our own creativity and imagination have expanded the outer bounds of human achievement and potential as never before, and by exponents never imagined.

Stem cell research is such a promising part of this new frontier - carrying with it the potential to heal our neighbors not just in our own states and countries, but across our world.