A federal appeals court this morning stayed, or suspended, a preliminary injunction issued 2 weeks ago that brought federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research to a standstill. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit took less than a day to respond to an appeal filed late yesterday by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The appeals court's one-page order states in part:
ORDERED that 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. ... It is
FURTHER ORDERED that appellees file a response to the emergency motion by September 14, 2010, at 4:00 p.m. The appellants may file a reply by 4:00 p.m. on September 20, 2010.
In plain English, the appeals court is suspending the injunction so it can consider DOJ's request that the injunction be stayed. The plaintiffs (appellees) who filed suit to block hESC research, two adult stem cell researchers, now have until 14 September to respond to DOJ's motion. DOJ (the appellant) then has another 6 days to reply.
The stay is the first good news for biomedical researchers since the 23 August preliminary injunction from Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., forced the National Institutes of Health to suspend grant reviews of hESC proposals, freeze payments on ongoing grants, and shutter hESC research on the NIH campus. NIH isn't commenting yet—a spokesperson referred this reporter to DOJ's press office. But the 11 days (at least) of breathing room should allow NIH to resume grant reviews and intramural hESC research during a "critical time" near the end of the fiscal year on 30 September, suggests Anthony Mazzaschi of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C. ScienceInsider will continue to follow the implications of the stay.
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