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Friday, February 27, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 8.0° F  Fair
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Mark Bugher urges Wisconsin Legislature to avoid criminalizing stem cell research
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Bugher: "These people are entrepreneurs in the purest sense of the word."
Bugher: "These people are entrepreneurs in the purest sense of the word."

You'd be surprised at what Mark Bugher, the retiring director of the University Research Park, tells state lawmakers when they ask what they can do to help.

Bugher doesn't cite any big spending programs or new construction projects to help the UW commercialize its huge research program for the benefit of the Wisconsin economy.

"My answer is do no harm first and foremost," he says. "Every session of the Legislature we have bills introduced to criminalize researchers who use tissue derived from aborted fetuses."

Such efforts (including AB 224) by anti-abortion Republicans are spooking researchers and threatening the entrepreneurs behind state's highly rated biotechnology industry, he warns.

"These people are entrepreneurs in the purest sense of the word, risking huge amounts of their personal net worth on the best and greatest great idea they might ever have," he says. "When an uniformed policymaker throws out an idea to somehow criminalize those activates, it does send a chill."

Bugher was a top advisor to Gov. Tommy Thompson before stepping down in 1999 to manage University Research Park. He points out that Thompson, a Republican and a Catholic, supported the research. The governor knew firsthand how cancer could kill loved ones, and thought stem cell research might yield cures, he notes. (In his losing 2012 senate race, Thompson redefined his position as only supporting research with adult stem cells.)

"Wisconsin is known for this research," says Bugher. "Why shouldn't we mobilize around it?"

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