Grim reality of the impact of judge’s ES cell decision is emerging

Francis Collins; ES cell research lawsuit
Francis Collins.

The Obama administration has announced it will “quickly” appeal the ES cell decision, but I’m not hearing anything about a stay on the judge’s order in the meantime or anything like that. It’s quite the opposite.

The NIH, in the form of Director Francis Collins, has finally spoken about the federal judge’s ruling that apparently banned federal funding for human ES cell research.

Dr. Collins’ statement brings some clarity, but would seem to indicate the most grim interpretation of yesterday’s ruling are turning out to be true.

NPR is reporting that Dr. Collin’s says that while grants working on hESC research that have already received payments this year will not have to suspend their work and return the money, basically everything else will be a wipeout and if there is no resolution their next yearly payments will not come.

22 projects due to receive $45 million in yearly payments next month will not receive the money at all and will be stopped entirely, barring the remote possibility that they can obtain private funding to bridge the gap between now and whenever federal funding might be unfrozen.

In addition, according to the California Stem Cell Report (quoting Collins via KQED, which will have a radio forum on the topic tomorrow morning) the NIH will freeze upcoming review of all grants involving hESC.  Ouch.

How long those researchers with NIH grant applications pending will remain frozen remains unclear.

The bottom line is that as a country we are, temporarily at least, pushed into a state worse than that during Bush’s 8 years. Researchers in other countries have told me that just cannot understand what is going on and why the U.S. would do this.

The big question is how long will this destructive limbo last. Every week, every month that might pass, will severely damage the ES cell research field and hurt millions of patients who could benefit from the research.

Researchers and patients alike have to be extremely upbeat about the positive role of CIRM in guiding ES cell research forward and this will continue despite the judge’s ruling, but even CIRM cannot fund all ES cell research that might go on in California and of course cannot fund research outside of California.