Thursday, September 09, 2010

Legal Wheels Turn: Ban on hESC Funding Temporarily Removed

The nation's stem cell scientists received a reprieve today, courtesy of a federal appellate court that put a hold on an earlier order to halt federal funding of hESC research.

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times wrote:
"The appeals court ruling could save research mice from being euthanized, cells in petri dishes from starving and scores of scientists from facing a suspension of paychecks, according to arguments the Obama administration made in the case. It could also allow the National Institutes of Health to provide $78 million to 44 scientists whose research the agency had previously agreed to finance."
Rob Stein and Spencer S. Hsu of the Washington Post wrote:
"(T)he appeals court made it clear it was not making a final decision about the case, which means the reprieve could be short-lived and the fate of the funding could continue to be whiplashed by seesawing court rulings."
The next court action is not expected to come until sometime after Sept. 20, the deadline for filing additional arguments in the case.

The legal brouhaha makes clear several facts concerning research funding. If you are a scientist, your research is not secure unless you are paying for it yourself. NIH funding is subject to the vagaries of the courts and Congress. Private funding comes with its own set of strings, which generally are not revealed to the public, but they are there. And despite the assurances of the California stem cell agency, its funding can be threatened under some circumstances, as we saw in 2009. CIRM's resources are clearly subject to the state's ability or desire to borrow money and issue the state bonds that are the agency's only real source of cash.

1 comment:

  1. Of funding matters, back in the day, the Wright Brothers paid for their own research on flight, while Professor Langley got $50,000 (1900 vintage) from Congress. Who flew? But when the Wright Brothers tried to enforce their patent, there was tremendous criticism of the Wrights.

    In passing, the appellate panel was comprised of judges appointed by Republicans. Congress can alter the Dickey-Wicker amendment at any time, and this whole matter could go away.


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