Thursday, October 05, 2006

The New Quarantine

Doktor SchnabelDuring the late Middle Ages some European cities instituted mandatory waiting periods that prevented would-be visitors from entering until it was clear those visitors were free of the Black Death. The quarantine period was forty - quarantaine in French- days. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine ("CIRM") has now proposed a new quarantine, this time to prevent the contagion of Federal funding that might taint, or be tainted by, embryonic stem cell research. In their Draft Scientific Plan October 2006, released yesterday, the CIRM proposes to allocate almost 10% of its funding ($273 million out of a total of about $3 billion) to create NIH-free laboratories:

CIRM must operate independently of federal funding institutions

Current restrictions limit the use of federal funding to research that uses approved stem cell lines. Thus, for much of its work, CIRM cannot act in partnership with the largest institution for funding medical research in the world, the NIH. In addition, investigators who use CIRM funds to work outside the federal guidelines must keep this work physically and administratively separate from NIH-funded work. Managing these issues imposes a burden on the scientists, on the research institutions and on CIRM.

Attempts in Congress this past summer to loosen the federal-funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, while supported by a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, were vetoed by President Bush. So, for the time being at least, embyronic stem cell research will remain in a quarantine from federal support that is likely to last considerably longer than forty days.

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