A year from now will I still be conducted federally funded research on human ES cells?
What about the hundreds of other professors in the U.S. and their thousands of employees?
It is not unreasonable at this point to forecast a perfect storm in Fall 2012 that may kill elements of stem cell research that are crucial for the hopes of millions of people.
What is this storm?
I predicted just this week that Obama would win election in 2012, but that nonetheless despite dodging the bullet of a Republican president almost certainly to be hostile to ES cell research that the political climate overall would remain dicey at best.
But what if Obama loses the election? What if Newt Gingrich is President? Gingrich is now claiming he never supported ES cell research, caving to the extremists in his party to try to win the nomination, and appears less supportive of science overall than he used to be. The other most likely Republican President in 2012 would be Mitt Romney, the shapeshifter who seems intent upon being whatever other people want him to be. A Republican beating Obama in 2012 would not be a shocker and their presence together with a host of Republican governors attacking ES cell research and science more generally would be a nasty combination.
In addition, another element is portending a truly terrible storm for ES cell research and stem cell research more generally in Fall 2012.
The anti-hope researchers who sued the government to stop federal funding lost their case in July of this year, but now they are appealing and the 3-judge panel that has been drawn to hear the appeal looks extremely hostile to ES cell research. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, a GHW Bush appointee already was the dissenter on the 2-1 decision in favor of NIH. You can bet there is a 100% chance of her voting against ES cell research this time again. The additional 2 judges were both appointed by Bush Jr: David Sentelle and Janice Rogers Brown. I predict a decision in favor of the plaintiffs (those suing the government) either 2-1 or less likely but not a shocker 3-0.
Throw in Geron’s decision to punt on their hESC research and the somewhat bleak chances of someone else picking up their hESC research program and running with it, and things feel pretty bad.
I believe the Republicans will hold onto the Congress. Then with a Republican president and a federal court ruling in favor of those trying to kill ES cell research, we have a perfect storm to put an end to most ES cell research in the U.S., potentially for years.
Ultimately the stem cell federal lawsuit may end up with the Supreme Court, but if this appeal goes against us then it could be well into 2013 before ES cell research becomes legal again. In addition, there is reason to believe the Supreme Court would rule against ES cell research.
Hang onto your hat because if you are someone who cares about stem cell research, particularly ES cell research and the hope it brings, things could get very ugly sooner than any of us had hoped following the court victory for ES cells not that long ago. We cannot directly sway the judges, but keep in mind they do read newspapers and go on the Internet. In addition we can have some influence on who wins the presidential election.
Another thing to keep in mind is how this highlights the incredibly beneficial and crucial nature of CIRM. Even if this hypothetical perfect storm hits us here in the U.S., hESC research will continue to proceed here in California all because of CIRM. As I posted this week, CIRM’s future looks brighter than ever, but CIRM cannot attain its full positive impact while in a bubble of an otherwise very hostile climate in the U.S.