Monday, March 9, 2009

Obama to Reverse U.S. Government Ban on Funding Stem Cell Research Today

President Barack Obama will reverse the U.S. government’s ban on funding stem-cell research today and pledge to “use sound, scientific practice and evidence, instead of dogma” to guide federal policy, an adviser said.

Harold Varmus, co-chair of a science advisory group to the President, said Obama will ask the White House Office of Science and Technology to create guidelines to incorporate ‘scientific integrity’ into decision-making by U.S. agencies. The action on stem cells, which can grow into any kind of tissue, may help speed research into cures for major illness.

Academic laboratories, led by Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and companies already using stem-cell technology, led by Geron Corp., of Menlo Park, California, could gain tens of millions of dollars in funding because of the decision. A “significant amount” of $10 billion given the National Institutes of Health in Obama’s stimulus plan will go to this area of research, Varmus said.
“We view what happened with stem-cell research in the last administration as one manifestation of the failure to think carefully about how government use of scientific advice occurs,” said Varmus, a Nobel prize winner who is president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, in a conference call with reporters yesterday. “Public policy must be guided by sound, scientific advice.”

Ed Morrissey from Hot Air writes:

The advocates of this policy cheer the supposed triumph of science over politics, but in truth, it’s the reverse. Over a year ago, researchers found a way to unlock adult stem cells to have the same flexibility as hEsc lines, ie, the ability to transform into any kind of tissue. Bush’s policy in effect pushed the government-funded research in that direction, which prompted the breakthrough. With that process available, we have no need to grind up our offspring to cure diseases, especially since grinding up our offspring has yet to result in even one therapeutic result, despite billions of dollars of research into hEsc. A scientific approach would dictate that we follow success instead of failure.

In fact, the market has done just that. While some states (California being one) have provided public funds for hEsc research, most of the private money goes towards adult stem-cell research. Why? It’s a proven technology. That’s one of the reasons hEsc researchers are so desperate to overturn Bush’s ban on federal funding —they can’t compete for any other funding any longer.

This decision places politics ahead of science. People demand government funding for hEsc not because it works, but because it’s popular. Pro-abortion activists want it as an endorsement of abortion as some sort of mechanism for scientific advance, and they’ve managed to sucker the rest into thinking that we’ll all die unless we start destroying embryos to keep us alive. No one has offered a single scientific reason to have the federal government fund hEsc research.

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