Last Friday, the US stem cell research debate took another turn when the Appeals Court overturned the ruling of a Federal judge on the issue of government funding of embryonic stem cell research. The biopharmaceutical industry in the USA has been anxiously watching politicians debate this issue for years. Prior to the Obama administration, NIH funding of embryonic stem cell research was banned based on the questionable ethics of obtaining stem cells by destroying embryos, and money could only be given to programs using IPSCs.
In 2009 Obama overturned government policies that had previously not allow government grants to support human embryonic stem cell research, with the supposed intent that NIH fund projects where the embryonic cell lines came from sources that were to be destroyed anyway. In August 2010, Federal Court judge Royce Lamberth declared that the NIH policies were illegal. However, on Friday, a panel of three judges from the Appeals Court ruled 2-1 in favor of NIH, stating that the US law, which states that embryos may not be created for the sole purpose of obtaining pluripotent cells, is ambiguous.
In the meantime, during the appeals process, funds continued to flow, so that millions of dollars of research would not be lost while the stem cell debate continued.