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Ban on Federal Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research Temporarily Lifted

The order brings a brief reprieve for scientists and the NIH, though many uncertainties remain.
September 9, 2010

A federal appeals court temporarily suspended an injunction, issued last month, that had halted federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells. The injunction had thrown the field into disarray, as the National Institutes of Health stopped all research on embryonic stem cells within the institute and suspended reviews of grants involving the cells. The Justice Department had asked that the injunction be stayed while the court considers the government’s appeal of the ruling.

As I noted in my previous blog,

Researchers say the decision–even if it is later reversed–will have a damaging effect on the field, stunting promising medical research that was just building momentum. All grants under review at the nation’s largest funding agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), that involve human embryonic stem cells have been put on hold while the NIH and other government agencies try to get the injunction reversed.

…”I’ve been working with embryonic stem cells for nine years and seen the waves come and go,” says Sean Palecek, a stem-cell researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Right now is the most restrictive that it’s ever been.” Palecek and others worry that this latest blow will discourage young scientists from entering the field. “It’s really disheartening,” he says. “It’s hard enough to come up with cutting-edge ideas and to get funding. The possibility of having funding pulled at any time sends the wrong message.”

The order states:

… the district court’s August 23, 2010 order be stayed pending further order of the court. The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion.

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