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Rick Perry fights for "moral" stem cells at controversial conference, criticizes the FDA's meddling

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Stem cell summit, Rick Perry, October 2012
Perry gave the keynote address at the first annual Houston Stem Cell Summit, held at the Houstonian. Photo by Tyler Rudick
Stem cell summit, Rick Perry, October 2012
The Houston Stem Cell Summit continues through Saturday. Photo by Tyler Rudick
Stem cell summit, Rick Perry, October 2012
The governor promoted the state of Texas as a place where "government largely stays out of the way." Photo by Tyler Rudick
Stem cell summit, Rick Perry, October 2012
Stem cell summit, Rick Perry, October 2012
Stem cell summit, Rick Perry, October 2012

Never one to shy away from a battle, Gov. Rick Perry took to the podium at a controversial stem cell conference on Friday to discuss a topic close to his heart.

Giving the keynote speech for the first annual Houston Stem Cell Summit — which was heavily-sponsored by Celltex, the Sugar Land lab linked to the governor's non-FDA-approved stem cell treatment in August 2011 — Perry lauded Texas' long-standing support of innovative technology and medicine.

"You'll find an amazing environment in this state for innovation" he said before a crowd of roughly 100 medical professionals at The Houstonian Hotel where the conference continues through Saturday. "[It's] that wildcat spirit that started in this state back through the generations."

Perry cited Texas' efforts to create "a fertile climate where innovators are free to create and nurture their ideas while government largely stays out of the way."

Perry's Lone Star boosterism continued as he highlighted the state's ongoing efforts to create "a fertile climate where innovators are free to create and nurture their ideas while government largely stays out of the way."

But the Texas government's attempts to stay "out of the way" have not been working so well, according to 33 scientists who recently resigned from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The departing researchers claimed that the state-run organization was pressured by political appointees to push funding towards specific projects, including an $18 million grant to M.D. Anderson for the commercialization of cancer medications.

Perry's reputation took another hit this month when Celltex was forced to stop supplying stem cells to clinical trials after receiving a warning letter from the FDA that cited a long list of manufacturing infractions.

Medical morality and the FDA

Following the keynote address, the governor spoke with reporters at a brief press conference. After fielding a question about state cuts to Planned Parenthood — an organization he suggested affiliates itself with "the abortion industry" — Perry discussed the moral issues he has with embryonic stem cells, as opposed to the adult stem cells used in his own 2011 back treatment. (Click here for the debate.)

"I'm a big believer in the 10th Amendment that allows for states to make decisions that aren't clearly defined by the Constitution," Perry said.

" California, for instance, made the decision to focus on embryonic stem cells. We don't agree with that in Texas on moral grounds and, frankly, on scientific grounds.

"California, for instance, made the decision to focus on embryonic stem cells. We don't agree with that in Texas on moral grounds and, frankly, on scientific grounds. There have been no cures found on the embryonic side to my knowledge.

"That's a state to state decision and I'm confident that in Texas we'll find some cures."

Perry also mentioned his distaste for a recent federal court ruling that allows the FDA to view stem-cell procedures as drugs — a designation that allows the agency to regulate the nation's stem cell labs, including Celltex.

"I disagree with the FDA that the process going on with some of our companies here in Texas is creating a drug," he said, noting that similar lab-based procedures like bone marrow transplants and in-vitro fertilization are not under the agency's jurisdiction.

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