NIH Releases New Guidelines for U.S. Stem Cell Research Funding
On Friday, NIH issued draft guidelines limiting government-sponsored embryonic stem cell research to cells taken from excess fertility clinic embryos that otherwise would have been discarded, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Neergaard, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/18).
Under the guidelines, scientists must receive written consent from embryo donors that will be used for research. According to the Washington Post, such cell lines typically come from couples who have completed fertility treatments and do not need the remaining embryos.
Donation is permitted only when it is done voluntarily, without pressure or financial inducement (Connolly, Washington Post, 4/18).
The guidelines will be published this week in the Federal Register. There will be a 30-day public comment period on the guidelines before they become final on July 7 (Swanson, The Hill, 4/17).
The guidelines carry out an executive order made by President Obama in March. In developing the guidelines,
Obama "directed NIH to formulate the best method for moving forward with stem cell research, both ethically and scientifically" in an independent process, according to White House spokesperson Reid Cherlin (Harris, New York Times, 4/18). According to the Post, the guidelines -- which "fell short" of the "open-ended policy" supported by some scientists and patient advocates -- reflect "a compromise based on [the Obama administration's] reading of public opinion about the cutting-edge science."
As a result of the guidelines, federal funding could be directed toward projects involving hundreds of new stem cell clusters as early as this fall (Connolly, Washington Post, 4/18).
According to the New York Times, the policy change "is likely to kick off a rush of applications from scientists eager for federal support for stem cell research" (New York Times, 4/18).
Impact for California
The San Jose Mercury News reports that researchers in the Bay Area likely will continue to rely on Proposition 71 funding and grants from private foundations because such funding has fewer restrictions.
In 2004, California voters approved Proposition 71, which provides $3 billion in state funds for stem cell research over 10 years (Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 4/17).
NIH acting Director Raynard Kington said, "There can be no question that these proposed guidelines will greatly expand scientific opportunity" (Venkataraman, Boston Globe, 4/18). Kington said that the Obama administration was guided by "broad public support" in establishing a policy that blocks the creation of embryos for research purposes or therapeutic cloning.
The guidelines are modeled after legislation that Congress approved twice but was vetoed by former President George W. Bush, according to Kington (Connolly, Washington Post, 4/18). Kington added, "As science changes we will take note of that and, when appropriate, reconsider the guidelines" (New York Times, 4/18).
Kington said, "We are likely to increase greatly the number of human embryonic stem cells available for federal funding," adding, "This is a remarkable development that promises to speed the research that one day may fundamentally change the way we do (medical) research" (Reuters/New York Post, 4/18).
NIH's guidelines "offer an intelligent solution to an issue that demanded great sensitivity," a Post editorial states.The editorial states that it "is a job for the White House" to determine what the public supports in regard to stem cell research. However, the editorial concludes, "delegation -- or abdication, depending on your point of view -- in this case produced a sensible result" (Washington Post, 4/18). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.