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Obama administration appeals stem cell research block

The Obama administration on Tuesday appealed [notice of appeal, PDF; motion to stay, PDF] last week's ruling by the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] that granted a preliminary injunction [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] blocking federal funding for embryonic stem cell research [JURIST news archive]. The administration argues that Judge Royce Lamberth's holding is overbroad, endangering an array of research across multiple programs and centers while only serving a very attenuated economic interest of the plaintiffs in the case. According to the filing, the injunction threatens 24 research projects, more than 1,300 jobs and $64 million in funding, as well as potentially millions of Americans who may benefit from medical advances in the field of stem cell research. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] has asked the court to rule on the appeal by September 7. Meanwhile, in response to last week's ruling, Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) [official website] has called for new legislation [press release] to reform embryonic stem cell research restrictions.

Lamberth granted the injunction on the basis that the federal funding violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment, a provision at Division F, Section 509 of the annual Omnibus Appropriations Act [2009 edition materials], which prohibits appropriated funds from financing research that involves the creation or destruction of human embryos. The case was originally dismissed for lack of standing last October but was reinstated [JURIST reports] in June with only plaintiffs who claimed their their ability to obtain funding for adult stem cell research was harmed by increased competition for federal funds after they were permitted to also be used for embryonic stem cell research. Those new guidelines reversed previous rules that limited government funding of embryonic stem cells to only cell lines that were in existence as of August 2001. Despite pressure from the scientific community, the previous administration refused similar changes to funding guidelines. In 2007, then-president George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 [S 5 materials], which was intended to relax funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The administration rejected the bill, saying it would compel taxpayers to support the destruction of human embryos. In 2006, Bush vetoed a previous version [JURIST report] of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Senate to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, saying he would not provide federal funding for stem cell research because many consider the destruction of embryos to be murder.

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