Stem cell legislation and its impact on the geographic preferences of stem cell researchers

Luca Verginer and Massimo Riccaboni

Eurasian Business Review (2021)


Proponents describe stem Cell Replacement Therapy and related technologies to be a significant step forward for medicine. However, due to the inherent ethical problems in human Embryonic Stem Cell Research (hESC), it is strictly regulated around the world. The US has passed at the federal and state level, both supportive and restrictive laws over the years. The changing legislative environment at the state and federal levels has created a situation whereby researchers have to choose whether and where to carry out this research. By exploiting the temporal and spatial heterogeneity and legislative shocks, we assess if the affected scientists have voted with their feet, leaving the state or country imposing restrictive rules and whether hESC research has clustered geographically. We find that most of the hESC research is carried out in supportive states, and significant legislative changes have had a minor but noticeable effect on relocation choices. Most importantly, the research has moved to supportive states. This result suggests that several state-level interventions (supportive), which were opposed to federal laws (restrictive), have counteracted each other.