Stem cell research funding to continue while court considers appeal

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 11, 2010

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The federal government can continue paying for human embryonic stem cell research while federal lawyers appeal a lower court's funding ban, according to a Sept. 28 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia. Earlier in September, the court issued an emergency stay of the lower court's injunction.

The National Institutes of Health had halted support for embryonic stem cell research in late August, shortly after Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that federal law prohibits any federal funding of research that destroys human embryos. Lamberth's decision was based on language in the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a provision added to HHS appropriations bills annually since 1996. A coalition of groups had sued to block federal stem cell research funding, including the Christian Medical & Dental Assns., an adoption agency and researchers who use nonembryonic stem cells.

The Dept. of Health and Human Services, on behalf of NIH, is seeking to have the injunction removed permanently. The plaintiffs, meanwhile, have asked Lamberth to make the injunction permanent, said Steve Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, part of the plaintiffs' legal team. Aden said this case is only in the first few rounds of what will probably be a 12-round fight ending at the U.S. Supreme Court. "We're in it for the long haul," he said.

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