NIH Wins Appeal of Stem Cell Injunction

29 April 2011 11:13 am

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a high-stakes law suit challenging the legality of the Obama Administration's policy on human embryonic stem cells (hESCs).

In a decision released this morning, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that an existing law that bars federal funding for research that harms or destroys embryos should not block research using cells derived from embryos:

We conclude the plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail because Dickey-Wicker is ambiguous and the NIH seems

reasonably to have concluded that, although Dickey-Wicker bars funding for the destructive act of deriving an ESC [embryonic stem cell] from an embryo, it does not prohibit funding a research project in which an ESC will be used. We therefore vacate the preliminary injunction.

One member of the three-member panel filed a dissenting opinion.

The suit was filed by two scientists arguing that NIH's 2009 hESC guidelines violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, language adopted by Congress in 1996. U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of the plaintiffs last August and issued a preliminary injunction that briefly blocked NIH from awarding hESC funds to study hESCs and shut down hESC research on the NIH campus. On 9 September the appeals court issued a stay, which has been in effect while the court considered an appeal.

ScienceInsider will report further on the decision later today.

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