Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NIH Wins Dismissal of Stem Cell Lawsuit

A lawsuit aimed at stifling federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research was dismissed today, but it was not immediately clear whether the decision would be appealed.

The dismissal by Judge Royce Lambreth received widespread attention from the mainstream meda and was heralded by researchers and stem cell advocates. One opponent, the Family Research Council noted, however, in a blog item by David Prentice that the debate on the legal question and issue is far from over.

From Washington, D.C., also came word that Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Col., and Charlie Dent, R-Pa., will continue to push their federal legislation to ensure that federal funding of hESC research would continue to be permitted.  Julian Pecquet wrote on that DeGette said her legislation is "vital as ever."

Today's decision follows an earlier appellate decision in favor of the NIH. Meredith Waldman of Nature wrote,
"The appeals court in April said that, given the ambiguity of the word "research" in the text of the amendment, which prohibits government funding for "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed", the NIH was "reasonable" in concluding that it could fund research using cell lines derived from embryos (which are destroyed in the process) as long as it does not fund the derivation itself.

"Today, Lamberth wrote: 'While it may be true that by following the Court of Appeals’ conclusion as to the ambiguity of 'research,' this Court has become a grudging partner in a bout of 'linguistic jujitsu,' such is life for a [lower] court.'"
Tom Schoenberg of Bloomberg News provided this background,
"In fiscal 2010, NIH spent about $200 million to fund more than 200 human-embryo research grants, the Justice Department and the institutes’ director, Francis Collins, said in court papers....The U.S. allowed 37 embryonic stem-cell lines for taxpayer- funded research in June, the most of any month this year, according to the NIH. The total number of U.S.-endorsed lines now stands at 128."
The California stem cell agency had no immediate reaction to the decision, but Amy Adams, CIRM communications manager, posted a short notice of the decision on the CIRM research blog with links to earlier items concerning the lawsuit.

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