Canadian researchers are excited by U.S. President Barack Obama's decision Monday to lift restrictions on funding for stem cell research, but they are also apprehensive that the move could lure some of Canada's talent and funding south.
Tim Caulfield, a law professor who studies the ethics of stem cell research at the University of Alberta, said he's hopeful the move will lead to cures for ailments such as Parkinson's disease or diabetes.
But it comes at a time when Canada is clawing back funding for research, and that makes the possibility of a brain drain "or, at the minimum, making it more difficult to recruit" scientists a reality, he told CBC News.
"I know that stem cell researchers are worried that Canada is going to lose its place as one of the world leaders as a result of the funding that's going on in the United States and the lack of funding here in Canada."
He wants the federal government to boost Canada's ability to compete by putting some of the money in its economic stimulus package toward stem cell research.
Obama signed an executive order Monday lifting funding limits on research with embryonic stem cells imposed by his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Michael Rudnicki, scientific director of the Canadian Stem Cell Network, told the Canadian Press he shares some of Caulfield's worries about what the new North American stem cell funding landscape means.
"Cutting edge science is incredibly competitive," he said. "It's like building a hockey team — if suddenly our salary cap is half what it is elsewhere, it can be hard to build that team."
The U.S. announcement appeared to have created a buzz in more than just Canada's research world.
Shares in the Calgary-based research company Stem Cell Therapeutics Corp. were the most actively traded on the TSX Venture Exchange Monday, with more than 15 million changing hands, according to the closing summary for the exchange.
The company, which is working on new drug-based therapies to help people recover from strokes and brain injuries, said only a couple thousand of its shares are usually traded in a normal day.
CEO Alan Moore said the boost in trading suggests that people are becoming more aware of the area of stem cell research.
The stock closed at 7.5 cents a share, up half a cent from the day before.