Ruling could slow down stem cell research at U of Mby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Researchers at the University of Minnesota are scrambling to figure out if any of their embryonic stem cell projects are affected by a new court ruling. The university has two large grants and several smaller projects that could be in jeopardy.
On Monday, a federal judge blocked President Obama's 2009 executive order expanding embryonic stem cell research. Obama's policy was intended to ease the limits imposed on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research by the Bush administration.
The National Institutes of Health says 22 projects will be stopped as a result, unless scientists can find private dollars to fund their work.
Jonathan Slack, director of the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute, says principal investigators leading stem cell studies have major projects at stake.
"I think the NIH are being unnecessarily cautious here," said Slack. "I don't know who these 22 projects belong to or where there are, but I certainly wouldn't like to be one of those PIs holding one of those grants. I would be absolutely fuming about it."
Slack said the court's injunction is a troubling development.
"This injunction, if you interpret it as I believe the judge intends it to be interpreted, will stop all work dead as from now," Slack said. "So it's actually very serious."
The university's two projects funded by federal research grants use embryonic stem cells to treat cancer and muscular dystrophy.
Slack said the university could probably come up with private funding to continue the research, but he said that would delay the work significantly.
"These issues can be very complicated and they can consume a lot of legal and administrative time," he said. "I think our medical researchers would much prefer to be working on their disease problems, rather than solving these accounting and legal problems."
The Obama administration said late Tuesday it will appeal the court ruling.