On Aug. 24, federal officials, scientists and advocates struggled to cope with the implications from a Federal District Court’s ruling banning federal funding for research on human embryonic stem cells.
During a press conference, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, outlined the immediate effect of the ruling on stem cell researchers.
According to Collins, active grants will receive funding as originally dictated; however, no renewals will be funded. He also said that all grants currently under review will be pulled from consideration, and no new grants will be accepted.
Collins also announced that a meeting to review the possible addition of new cell lines to the NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry has been canceled. The NIH has posted official announcements on its website.
As the NIH struggles to adapt to the new guidelines, prominent federal lawmakers are considering taking action.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees NIH funding, has announced that he will hold hearings on the matter as soon as Congress returns from recess on September 16th.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., briefed fellow House Democrats on the matter to discuss any possible legislative action. However, the specter of midterm elections in November makes any changes to the current appropriations bills unlikely.
Meanwhile, the White House emphasized its support for stem cell research, and signaled its intent to explore “all possible avenues to make sure that we can continue to do this critical lifesaving research.”
Any hope for reversing the decision quickly may ultimately lay with the court system. The Department of Justice has given notification of its intent to appeal the ruling later this week.
In the meantime, scientists around the country continued to express their dismay at the ruling.
“Monday was a sad day for the progress of biomedical science in the United States,” said Dr. Adam Engler, a stem cell researcher at University of California, San Diego. His remarks seemed to sum up the feeling of many scientists.
ASBMB president Suzanne Pfeffer bemoaned the decision as “threaten[ing] scientific discovery vital to the search for new understanding and therapies for many diseases.” Lisa Hughes, president of The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, agreed, stating that the decision was “a blow to the hopes of millions of patients and their families suffering from fatal and chronic diseases and disorders.”