Sunday, July 29, 2007

ACT, NIH and No Go Federal Funding

Despite all the hoopla on the Potomac about stem cell research, don't expect the federal situation to change any time soon and eliminate the justification for California's own $3 billion stem cell research effort.

The latest evidence for that came in a piece Sunday by Rick Weiss of the Washington Post. It demonstrated the hidebound nature of the NIH as well as the constraints it faces. The piece did not have to mention NIH's tight financial situation.

Here are the first few paragraphs of Weiss' story:
"With the active encouragement of the Bush administration, U.S. scientists in the past year have developed several methods for creating embryonic stem cells without having to destroy human embryos.

"But some who now wish to test their alternatively derived cells have found themselves stymied by an unexpected barrier: President Bush's stem cell policy.

"The 2001 policy says that federal funds may not be used to study embryonic stem cells created after Aug. 9 of that year. It is based on the assumption that the only way to make the cells is by destroying human embryos -- a truism in 2001 but not any longer.

"As a result, the National Institutes of Health recently refused to consider a grant application for what would have been the first federal study to compare several of the new, less politically contentious stem cell lines.

"'This is not the way to make good health policy,'" said Robert Lanza, the frustrated vice president for research and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) in Worcester(see editor's note below), Mass. Lanza submitted the study proposal with stem cell experts from several major research labs."
Even with a change of administration in 2009 and a Democratic Congress, it will take a considerable amount of bureaucratic shuffling to chart a new NIH and federal course on embryonic stem cell research. Then additional funds would have to become available or be taken from existing research – an effort that would be strongly resisted. Some would argue at that point that states are already handsomely financing ESC research, and more is not needed from the feds. Even if funds become become available, then the NIH has to go through another lengthy award process.

(Editor's note: ACT is headquartered in Alameda, California – not in Massachusetts. Why is it in the Golden State? Because that is where the money is. We should also note that a public relations agency for ACT is sending copies of the Weiss story to various interested parties, probably throughout the country. Nothing wrong with that. If you have a drum, you probably should beat it.) Sphere: Related Content

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