Senators give preliminary approval to funnel $500K into Kansas stem cell therapy COVID-19 trial

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Place initial backing behind law enforcement initiatives

TOPEKA — A plan to invest half a million dollars in a Kansas stem cell therapy center’s COVID-19 trials received preliminary Senate approval Tuesday, along with a handful of law enforcement-related bills.

The $500,000 appropriation to the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, part of the University of Kansas Medical Center, would go toward conducting a COVID-19 stem cell therapy trial. The treatment used to great effect with Graft vs Host Disease could have benefits in treating severe coronavirus cases, bill advocates say.

But neutral testimony from the president of the center and concerns over what the money would pay for had some leery of approving the bill.

“I certainly would not minimize the testimony from the director, because if this really were a good idea, there would be a lot more enthusiasm around the whole situation,” said Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park. “It almost feels like this bill is about something else because there are a lot of things that just don’t match up and some oddities here.”

The legislature established the center in 2013 to focus on stem cell research for transplant patients. The measure would allow the center to conduct a trial with funds to be used in 2022 or 2023.

In testimony provided to a senate committee, the president of the center said there was no prior approval from the Food and Drug Administration for this type of treatment for COVID-19 and that there may be issues finding sufficient patients for the trial.

Sen. Mike Thompson, a Shawnee Republican who serves on the stem cell therapy center’s board of advisers, championed the bill as an opportunity to put Kansas at the forefront of this research not only in the United States but worldwide.

Kansas would be on the forefront of groundbreaking technology that would have far-reaching effects on treating all sorts of illness, not just COVID-19,” Thompson said. “That’s why this effort is so important, and Kansas can be on the forefront of it.”

The Senate gave preliminary approval to more than a dozen bills throughout the morning, including the stem cell research funds, with several measures focusing on law enforcement. For example, Senate Bill 425, directs the Kansas Department for Children and Families to disclose information to investigating law enforcement agencies.

Testimony from law enforcement representatives urged legislators to provide this help in investigating reports of child abuse or neglect, something agencies say is much needed.

“It would do so much to empower our law enforcement who usually show up on a scene first,” said Sen. Oletha Faust Goudeau, D-Wichita.

Another measure, Senate Bill 419 would allow corrections officers to attend the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center. Bill advocates said this training would benefit the safety of victims, corrections officers and provide more consistency across law enforcement training.

“Too often they are treated as second hand law enforcement officers and they do the work, yeoman’s work every day throughout the pandemic, and we should treat them more like the officers that they already are,” Pittman said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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