U.S. appeals court puts on hold stem cell funding ban
Obama administration hopes research leads to new cures of diseases.
Thu, Sep 09, 2010 at 06:26 PM
SCIENCE: A colony of human embryonic stem cells is seen on a monitor at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Photo: Darren Hauck/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - A U.S. appeals court granted on Thursday an Obama administration request to temporarily lift a judge's ban on federal funding of research involving human embryonic stem cells.
The three-judge panel of the appeals court said in a brief order that it put on hold the judge's ban while it considers the merits of the administration's emergency request for a stay of his injunction.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth last month ruled that the research violated U.S. law because it involved destroying human embryos, a setback for President Barack Obama, who had tried to expand research in hopes it would lead to new cures of diseases.
The appeals court ordered that briefs be filed by Sept. 20. It then will have to decide whether its temporary administrative stay should be extended or ended.
The administration told the appeals court that Lamberth's ruling was at odds with the intent of Congress when it wrote the law limiting federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research and that it would undercut ongoing medical research.
Supporters of the research hailed the court order.
"We are pleased with the court's interim ruling, which will allow this important, life-saving research to continue while we present further arguments to the court in the weeks to come," said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
Lisa Hughes, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, said, "It is crucial that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research be restored permanently and this stay is a step in that direction."
While the case is argued in the courts, she urged Congress to move swiftly to resolve this issue and make clear the research is allowed.
Federal funding for stem cell research had been challenged by Dr. James Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, of Washington-based AVM Biotechnology.
They argued it violated U.S. law because human embryos were destroyed and it created unfair competition for limited money for their own work on adult stem cells.
Their attorneys have until Sept. 14 to file a brief with the appeals court, and then the administration has until Sept. 20 to file a reply.
(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, Editing by Will Dunham)
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