Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Trump, Fetal Tissue and the California Stem Cell Agency

The California stem cell agency says the Trump Administration moves against research involving fetal tissue have had no impact on the projects that it is financing, at least so far.

The agency, formally known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), was responding to a question originally raised by a reader of the California Stem Cell Report.

The inquiry was triggered by a number of reports over the last few months concerning the federal direction away from fetal tissue, a move that one researcher, Warner Greene of the Gladstone Institutes in California, called "scientific censorship of the worst kind."

The California Stem Cell Report queried CIRM yesterday about the federal actions, asking whether they have had "any impact, direct or indirect, on CIRM awards, existing or likely in the future."

Kevin McCormack, senior director for CIRM communications, replied, noting that the federal move is relatively recent.
"It could mean an increase in applications that use fetal tissue but it’s too soon to tell. Regardless, this is why the people of California created CIRM, so we don’t have to worry about federal funding for potentially life-saving research. Because we are independent, we can fund what we think is the best science."
McCormack alluded to the ballot initiative in 2004 that established the agency. The campaign was largely based on the need to bypass the Bush administration's restrictions on stem cell research. The anti-fetal tissue effort is likely to be the first step towards resurrecting similar restrictions on stem cell research. 

Politically and ironically speaking, new federal restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research could build support for continued funding of CIRM, which is hoping for passage of a proposed $5 billion bond measure on the November 2020 ballot.

While fresh restrictions are not good for the field overall, their imposition could help to preserve the stem cell agency. Any ballot campaign needs a nasty villain to campaign against.

And without Bush to campaign against in 2004, the stem cell agency probably would never have come into existence.

Here are links to a few of the recent stories on the Trump fetal tissue move: Washington Post, Science, STAT.

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