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Stem cell funding injunction overturned by federal court

Although it won't knock the royal wedding off the charts as an attention getter for many people, I was excited to learn this morning that the U.S. Court of Appeals has overturned an injunction banning federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. The injunction was issued last year by federal judge Royce Lamberth in response to a lawsuit by two researchers who argued that such funding was not only prohibited by the Dickey-Wicker amendment, but that it also put adult stem cell researchers at a disadvantage when competing for funds.

According to this morning's blog post on Nature's The Great Beyond:

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit minutes ago vacated a lower court's preliminary injunction blocking the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from funding human embryonic stem cell research.

In this 2-1 decision in Sherley et al v. Sebelius, the majority wrote that judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia "abused [the court's] discretion" when he issued this preliminary injunction that shut down NIH funding of stem cell research for 17 days last summer.

Justices Douglas Ginsburg and Thomas Griffith, two of the three judges who heard arguments in the case in December argue that the plaintiffs, adult stem cell researchers, were less than persuasive in their contention that they were being harmed by competion with human embryonic stem cell researchers for NIH funding.

Ginsburg and Griffith also felt that the case was unlikely to succeed its merits, which is a legal prerequisite for such an injunction.

Although the injunction stopped federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research for over two weeks last August, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay in September on the grounds that it would cause irreparable harm to ongoing research. Since then, researchers and ethicists have been awaiting a formal ruling. According to Nature:

While the preliminary injunction has now been vacated, a ruling on the substance of the case still rests with Judge Lamberth. Both sides have asked him to rule speedily on the matter.

Previously: Stanford stem cell expert weighs in on district court ruling, NIH intramural human embryonic stem cell research halted and U.S. Court of Appeals suspends ban on stem cell funding

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