Federal Funding Rules Complicate Stem Cell Research
Embryonic stem cell researchers who study stem cells approved for federal funding and those that are ineligible for such funds have had to purchase duplicate equipment for experiments to keep their work completely separate and avoid criminal and civil penalties, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Federal regulations permit federal funding to be used for research on 78 embryonic stem cell lines, about 20 of which are usable, according to the Times. Violating that policy could make researchers liable for criminal or civil penalties or jeopardize federal funding for laboratories or universities. Universities receive nearly two-thirds of their research budgets from the federal government, according to the Times.
Some researchers say that the "cumbersome dual system ... puts U.S. researchers at a disadvantage," the Times reports.
At the University of California-Los Angeles Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, researchers use cost accounting to dispense federal and private funds in proportion to the amount of time spent researching federally approved and unapproved cell lines.
Meanwhile, Jeanne Loring, co-director of the stem cell lab at the Burnham Institute for Biomedical Research in La Jolla, has designed labels to designate equipment for federally funded research from privately funded research equipment.
Don Ralbovsky, a spokesperson for the National Institutes of Health, said if researchers mistakenly mix funding, "we would work with them to rectify the situation and make whatever restitution is necessary" (Kaplan/Cline, Los Angeles Times, 8/9).