September 29, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

The perfect storm that may kill stem cell research this fall: moving closer

Perfect StormIn December 2011 I wrote a piece about a possible “perfect storm” of events that could crush stem cell research.

Was I being too pessimistic?

Now that we are into July 2012 making this fall very much closer on the horizon, how’s the forecast now?

That perfect storm if anything seems more likely now.

I started that post with the question below:

A year from now will I still be conducted federally funded research on human ES cells?

I would say I’m even more worried now that the answer might be “no”.

What is this storm?

I predicted last year that Obama would win election in 2012, but now I’m not so sure. Recent polling has Obama and Romney basically tied. I find this astonishing given how poor a candidate I believe Romney to be, but it’s reality.

What if Obama loses the election? I do not believe Romney would be a friend to science generally or to stem cell research in particular.

In addition, another element is portending a truly terrible storm for ES cell research and stem cell research more generally in just a few months.

The anti-hope researchers who sued the government to stop federal funding lost their case in July of 2011, 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. 

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.

Most scientists believe we need to explore all the main types of stem cell research, including ES cells, to bring cures to the greatest number of patients.

So that perfect storm I first mentioned in late 2011 looks closer and darker than ever.

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