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Federal court upholds stem cell research

The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday dismissed [opinion, PDF] an appeal attempting to overturn April's decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] that ended an injunction [JURIST reports] on federal funding of embryonic stem cell [JURIST archive] research. The initial suit, brought by two scientists, was an attempt to stop federal funding for embryonic stem cells so there was more funding for their research on adult stem cells. Their appeal stated that April's decision only considered one of their arguments and that stem cell research is not "research" under the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment [text]. Judge Royce Lamberth disagreed, although he was the judge who issued the original injunction, stating that he stands by the US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] decision in April as controlling law. A spokesperson for the White House called the decision a victory [press release], and said: "President Obama is committed to supporting responsible stem cell research and today's ruling was another step in the right direction."

Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has been a long uphill battle for the Obama administration. In 2009, President Barack Obama [official website] signed [press release] an executive order [text; JURIST report] which removed the previous administration's eight-year restriction on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. After the preliminary injunction on stem research was granted last year, the Obama administration appealed [JURIST report] the injunction, arguing that the ruling was 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. While the appeals process was underway, the court granted a long-term stay which allowed federal funding to continue [JURIST report] while the court reached a decision.

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