Monday, August 23, 2010

California Stem Cell Agency Deplores Ruling Nixing Fed hESC Research

A federal judge today put a temporary halt to federal funding of research involving human embryonic stem cells in a move that makes clear the importance of alternative funding sources such as the California stem cell agency.

Some had questioned the relevancy of the state's $3 billion research effort after the Obama administration restored cash for hESC grants. Critics said California was no longer needed because the feds were back in the game. But despite the ruling today, the state can proceed with its research because it is not constrained by the federal law cited in the court action.

Today's ruling is not a final decision in the case and is likely to be appealed. But it could mean that NIH funding in this controversial area will be stymied for some time, depending on the legal skills of its attorneys. Meanwhile, California will remain the largest source of hESC funding in the nation, although it has been moving into other areas as well. In fact, some have criticized the agency for not continuing to focus intensely on hESC research, which was the justification for spending $3 billion that was presented to voters in 2004.

In a statement, CIRM said it “deplored” the ruling, declaring that it was “immoral.” CIRM said its research would continue unabated, but noted that today's ruling will have a major negative impact elsewhere.

CIRM President Alan Trounson said,
“The decision is a deplorable brake on all stem cell research. Many discoveries with other cell types, notably the so-called reprogrammed iPS cells, would not happen without ongoing research in human embryonic stem cells. This decision leaves CIRM as the most significant source of funding for human embryonic stem cells in the U.S.”
CIRM Chairman Robert Klein said,
“It would be immoral to unnecessarily delay the critical medical research that is vital for human embryonic stem cell therapies to reach patients suffering from chronic disease and injury. We must remember that the microscopic cells used for this research would otherwise be thrown away by in vitro fertilization clinics, by couples that had finished their family planning.”
CIRM's statement said,
“Under this decision, even research using on the hESC lines approved by President George W. Bush will be halted.

“However, CIRM will continue to fund research on all hESC lines recognized by the Bush administration as well as newer lines approved by the National Institutes of Health during the past eight months. This points to the importance of CIRM’s California model of sustained funding in this field that promises to create thousands of jobs in California as well as improved therapies for patients in Californian and around the world.

“With federal funding uncertain, CIRM will continue providing a stable source of funding for those researchers who have committed their labs to pursuing new therapies based on work with human embryonic stem cells. Through this ongoing funding, CIRM expects to be able to continue to leverage California’s investment through its Collaborative Funding Partners, grant-making agencies in seven countries and Maryland and New York.”
The statement continued,
“CIRM will also continue to fund research with other types of stem cells, particularly progenitor cells that can create many cell types and other pluripotent cells such as induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPS cells). However, it is important to note that work in all these cells types requires insights gained through work with hESCs to proceed with maximum efficiency. hESC research informs the entire field.”
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