UCSF's Kriegstein, UC File in Court on Stem Cell Injunction

By Jennifer O'Brien

The University of California filed a motion Sept. 20 with the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals to intervene in Sherley v. Sebelius, the case regarding whether federal funds could be used for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. UC is the nation’s first research institution to formally seek to intervene in the pending lawsuit. UCSF’s Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF, was one of two UC scientists to file a Declaration in support of the UC Board of Regents’ motion to intervene.

The issue of federal funding for hESC research appeared to have been put to rest in March 2009, when President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order reversing the restrictions on U.S. funding that had been established by the George W. Bush administration in August 2001. However, on Aug. 23, 2010, a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction blocking federal funding of the research, ruling that the government’s stem cell regulations violated the Dickey-Wicker amendment. Dickey-Wicker is a legislative ban on using federal money to destroy embryos, which are the source of human embryonic stem cells. The Obama ruling had avoided violation of the amendment by stating that federal funds could be used for research on human embryonic stem cells, but could not be used for research that involved destroying the embryos themselves. This work had to be done with nonfederal funds. The suit was brought by two adult stem cell scientists. On Sept. 9, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that federal financing of embryonic stem cell research could continue while the court considered the judge’s order.

In a statement issued Sept. 20, the University of California declared, “The University takes this step [to file a motion] in order to directly weigh in with the court regarding the harm to research institutions engaged in this critical research that will result from a suspension or termination of access to federal funds. The University of California believes it is imperative that the scientific community be permitted to move forward with embryonic stem cell research that provides hope to millions of patients and their families.”

In a forcefully worded declaration, Kriegstein, a leading stem cell scientist and director of one of the nation’s most prodigious stem cell programs, discussed the impact of the temporary injunction on researchers at UCSF, in California and nationwide. He cites, among other costs, the fact that the NIH’s interpretation of the temporary injunction held in abeyance funding even for grants that did not involve hESC research if faculty members who were mentor or advisors of the grants were doing hESC research.

Regents’ motion to intervene in Sherley v. Sebelius

Arnold Kriegstein declaration in support of Regents motion

Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF