Saturday, 7 March 2009

Obama to Reverse Embryonic Stem Cell Ban

Signing of an executive order planned for Monday Saturday, 07 March 2009 President Barack Obama.President Obama's decision to lift restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, scheduled to be announced Monday, White House officials said Friday. It is expected to provide a major boost to one of the most promising but controversial fields of biomedical research in generations. The signing of an executive order voiding the restrictions will allow thousands of scientists to study hundreds of lines of cells that have been developed since the limitations were put in place eight years ago. It will also allow them to dismantle cumbersome bureaucracies constructed to work around the constraints and let them exchange scientific ideas more easily. The official also said Obama would make an announcement about a broader initiative to restore scientific integrity to government processes. In anticipation of the decision, the National Institutes of Health has started drafting guidelines to address the many ethical issues raised by the research. Mr. Obama’s announcement is not likely to lead to any immediate change in government policy, since it may take many months for the NIH to develop new guidelines for research. Still, research advocates are expected to push for the process to go as quickly as possible to ensure that universities have time to submit grant proposals that can be reviewed and accepted before September 2010, when the health institutes must commit the last of the $10.4 billion given to the NIH as part of the economic stimulus program. In contrast to the low-key way in which Obama has reversed other Bush legacies related to culture-war issues, the White House has invited scientists, advocates and members of Congress to a public ceremony for the signing. Obama will also announce "a broader effort to restore scientific integrity," an administration official said. Federal law will still prohibit using federal funds to destroy human embryos. However, some scientists hope funding will be allowed to support work on stem cells derived from a variety of sources, including from embryos specifically created to yield them, and not limited to cells from frozen embryos destined to be discarded by fertility clinics. "We're all waiting to see what the details of the policy will be," said George Daley, a leading stem cell researcher at Children's Hospital Boston. "If the policy were limited to lines exclusively from frozen embryos left over at IVF clinics, that would be a very restricted course and exclude some very important lines." "This is what the patient community, the scientific community and the medical community has been asking for," said Lawrence A. Soler of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. "We need to give credit to the administration for living up to their promise to keep politics out of science." Dr. Deepak Srivastava, director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco's new biotechnology complex at Mission Bay, said Obama probably has timed his announcement to allow stem cell researchers to qualify for some of the billions of dollars to be provided to NIH under the nation's stimulus package to jump-start the ailing economy. Srivastava said California is well-placed to capture a significant share of that federal money because the state's $3 billion taxpayer-supported stem cell agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has already paid to train scientists, support research and build new laboratories. The institute was created by a voter initiative in 2004. "We're really ahead of the curve and in the best position to make the discoveries now that the federal government is going to be a player," Srivastava said. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was set up by the voter initiative Proposition 71 to fund research that the federal government could not support under the Bush restrictions. Robert Klein, a real estate developer who spearheaded the initiative, said the NIH is now eager to work with the institute. "There was this oppressive ideological blockade of the development of medical science," said Klein, who now chairs the state stem cell institute's governing body. "We've been finally freed from the Middle Ages." Dr. Irving Weissman, director of Stanford's Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Institute, said Obama's policy will relieve researchers from the onerous requirement to segregate projects funded by the NIH from work on embryonic stem cells. Weissman said he will attend Obama's signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Monday. "I never thought I would actually fly cross-country just for something like this," said Weissman, "But then I changed my mind. I've been working and speaking out about the ban for about eight years, and now I want to be there." Among the lawmakers reportedly invited to the White House on Monday are Senators Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Representative Michael N. Castle of Delaware, all Republicans; Senators Dianne Feinstein of California, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, all Democrats. See also: Obama Reverses Bush’s Stem Cell Policy CellNEWS - Monday, 09 March 2009 Barack Obama on Stem Cell Research CellNEWS - Tuesday, 02 September 2008 ......... ZenMaster

For more on stem cells and cloning, go to CellNEWS at and

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