Judge Royce Lamberth's ruling that federally funded human embryonic stem cell research violates the Dickey-Wicker Law has thrown stem cell research in the USA into temporary (though immediate) disarray. According to stem cell researchers, Lamberth's temporary injunction has halted research at dozens of labs. The University of Wisconsin alone has 34 approved stem cell projects -- 21 of which are federally funded and affected by the ruling.
The ruling calls into question not only research done with 75 new stem cell lines approved by the Obama administration since 2009, but even research with previous cell lines considered to be acceptable by the Clinton and Bush administrations could be at risk under this ruling.
The NIH announced that researchers who are currently working on $131 M worth of grants in 2010 can continue their work. However, the NIH has suspended all review of new grant applications. There is currently up to $74 M in new funding requests in 50 grant applications before the NIH - $54 M in renewed funding requests and $20 M in completely new research. All of this is suspended.
Francis Collins, director of the NIH, expressed concern that the suspension of stem cell funding could do great harm to research in the US - "It has the potential to do serious damage just at a time when we were gaining momentum." Tim Kamp says, director of the University of Wisconsin Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, the ruling "will put us at a huge competitive disadvantage to other countries" including programs in Japan, the UK, Australia and China.
The Justice Department stated on Tuesday that it would appeal the ruling. It has asked the district court to put its ruling on hold while the appeals court considers the case. Beyond that, Democratic Leaders in the Congress are deciding whether to pursue additional legislation to restore stem cell research or to remove Dickey-Wicker from this year's spending bill. Leaders are exploring legal and political ramifications.
Seeking Alpha reports that a basket of stem cell stocks that they follow were down 5.5% in Tuesday's trading following the ruling. Ironically, several of the companies affected do not work with embryonic stem cells and have programs centered on use of adult stem cells from autologous adipose tissue or bone marrow. Cytori Therapeutics, Aastrom Biosciences, StemCell Inc, and International Stem Cell Corp are 4 companies who saw their stock drop more than 5% but DO NOT work with embryonic stem cells. Geron IS a company that works with embryonic stem cells that saw its stock drop. Osiris Therapeutics is a company that works with adult stem cells that actually saw its stock rise.
Posted by Bruce Lehr August 25th 2010.