July 13, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Where are top ES cell foes James Sherley and Theresa Deisher now?

Theresa Deisher (pictured) and James Sherley sued to stop federal funding of human ES cell research.
Theresa Deisher (pictured) and James Sherley sued to stop federal funding of human ES cell research in the U.S.

Four or five years ago the top stem cell story was the battle over federal funding of human embryonic stem (ES) cell research in the U.S. by James Sherley and Theresa Deisher. They were the two opponents of ES cell research making the most national headlines. Nature did a whole piece back then on Deisher entitled The Crusader (see image above).

They filed a lawsuit trying to stop that funding based on their own moral beliefs and for a short time NIH was unable to fund such research pending resolution of the key court case, but ultimately Sherley and Deisher lost that case. Ever since, the debate over human ES cell research in the U.S. has never been quite the same.

Where are Sherley and Deisher today?

Sherley runs an adult stem cell technology company called Asymmetrex that produces and sells certain kinds of cells. I haven’t really seen Sherley out there in the public domain as an activist that much ever since the ES cell court ruling.

In contrast, Deisher remains busy on that level, reportedly being intimately linked to the anti-Planned Parenthood movement including ties to David Daleiden, who released the secret videotapes. This is all according to a new piece by Becca Andrews in Mother Jones, which also reports that Deisher is involved in the anti-vaxx movement.

Andrews writes about the broader, negative impact of these efforts:

“The Planned Parenthood sting videos have had an undeniable effect on both the abortion debate and the questions around vaccines. As I previously reported forMother Jones, the political controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood has undermined medical research and poses a potential threat to the safety of scientists. Further exacerbating this effect is a GOP-led House committee that recently issued subpoenas to eight medical institutions, demanding the names of researchers, students, and doctors. Democrats are calling this effort a “witch hunt;” committee chair Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) insists the group is simply trying to “get the complete picture,” as she told the New York Times. Five states have banned research on fetal tissue—Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, and Oklahoma.Arizona bans the transfer of fetal tissue for research, and Florida bans the “purchase, sale, or transfer of fetal remains.”

Overall, the anti-ES cell research movement as well as now the anti-fetal research and anti-vaxx efforts harm science, impede innovative medicine, and pose a real risk to the public health.

HT to M.S.

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