Romney in Stem Cell Biz, Despite Political Opposition

Among the investments in Mitt Romney's vast portfolio worth upward of $287 million are two companies that perform or support stem cell research.

The former Massachusetts governor opposes the creation of new lines of human stem cells for research and vetoed a stem cell research bill as governor. He has said it was while considering that legislation that he evolved to his current opposition to abortion.

Many abortion opponents also oppose embryonic stem cell research, because it is conducted on cellular lines from embryos.

Romney's investments are in Novo Nordisk, a Danish company, and Millipore Corp., based in Billerica, Mass. According to their Public Financial Disclosure Form released Monday, the Romneys -- Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann -- jointly own shares in Novo Nordisk, valued between $100,101 to $250,000. They also have a mutual fund investment that includes shares in Millipore, which supplies research tools and human embryonic stem cells to researchers.

The investments are held in a blind trust set up in late 2002 before Romney took office as governor. Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Romney, said it was not known when they were purchased. He said the Romneys had no knowledge of their current holdings and are forbidden under terms of the blind trust to direct the trustee to buy or sell investments.

The Romney campaign says Novo Nordisk has, so far, done research with stem cells only from mice. According to its Web site, Millipore obtains from Australian in vitro fertility clinics human embryonic stem cells that would otherwise be discarded. Stems cells obtained that way are the exception to Romney's general opposition to stem cell research.

"Some cell stems ... are obtained from surplus embryos from in vitro fertilization" Romney wrote in a 2005 Boston Globe op-ed piece explaining his objections to the legislation in Massachusetts. "I support that research."

Still, Romney's holdings could present a problem for him with some conservatives who oppose all human embryonic stem cell research.

Mildred Jefferson, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told the Boston Herald: "I believe [pulling the investments] is a step he should take. I do believe [Romney] is an honorable man, and having declared that he understands the ethical violation of embryonic stem cell research, I feel certain he would not want to have his money go to support it."

On a conference call with reporters Monday, Brad Malt, of the law firm Ropes & Gray, said he has tried to adjust the investments so they are consistent with Romney's positions as a candidate. For example, he sold investments in two European companies doing business with Iran.

"The trustee clearly stated that he has -- to best of his ability -- executed transactions in a manner consistent with the public statements and policy positions of the governor and will continue to do so where applicable," Madden told ABC News in a written statement.

According to The Washington Post, another Republican presidential contender, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who strongly opposes stem cell research, owns a mutual fund that invests in Novo Nordisk.

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