Stem-cell re­searchers look else­where for fund­ing

Modern Healthcare - - Front Page - Joe Carl­son and Gregg Blesch

Stem-cell re­searchers are not en­cour­aged by fa­vor­able court rul­ing

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion can con­tinue to sup­port em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search as a re­sult of a fed­eral judge’s opin­ion that legal ex­perts said would end a law­suit chal­leng­ing the fund­ing. Some re­searchers, how­ever, said they ex­pect the po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sive­ness of their work will per­sis­tently threaten those dol­lars.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lam­berth, who briefly froze the re­search fund­ing last year, of­fi­cially ended the law­suit brought af­ter Pres­i­dent Barack Obama re­versed an ear­lier ban on vir­tu­ally all such re­search con­ducted by the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health. The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s new pol­icy was al­most im­me­di­ately blocked by a law­suit filed in U.S. District Court in Wash­ing­ton.

Af­ter a se­ries of de­ci­sions and re­ver­sals by ap­peals courts, Lam­berth—the chief judge on the Wash­ing­ton district court— grudg­ingly ruled in fa­vor of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s NIH pol­icy.

Su­san Solomon, CEO of the New York Stem Cell Foun­da­tion, said the lit­i­ga­tion and con­stant po­lit­i­cal fights over the fund­ing cre­ate un­cer­tainty. Her or­ga­ni­za­tion re­lies on pri­vate and state sources. “You never know what sort of sword of Damo­cles will fall,” she said. “There’s al­ready a fair amount of dam­age done.” The NIH fund­ing was drib­bling in, stopped and then started to drib­ble in again.

The law­suit was brought by re­searchers in­volved in adult stem-cell re­search. They ar­gued that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy vi­o­lated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amend­ment, which bans pub­lic fund­ing “for re­search in which a hu­man em­bryo and em­bryos are de­stroyed.”

The NIH has re­ceived more than 100,000 pub­lic com­ments since 2000 on its var­i­ous poli­cies for fund­ing em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search, which re­quires the de­struc­tion of a hu­man em­bryo in or­der to ex­tract bi­o­log­i­cal ma­te­rial used to cre­ate a self­per­pet­u­at­ing line of cells that can be ma­nip­u­lated by re­searchers.

Weeks af­ter Lam­berth granted the plain­tiffs an in­junc­tion in Au­gust 2010, the U.S. Court

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