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Plaintiffs File Embryonic Stem Cell Research Notice in DC Circuit

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 23, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Drs. James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, the researchers who lost a challenge to government funding of embryonic stem cell research earlier this year, filed a notice of appeal this week with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The controversy at the center of the case started with President Barack Obama’s 2009 Executive Order 13505: Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells, stating that the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.

Four months after Obama issued the executive order, the NIH Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research (Guidelines) became effective.

In their case, Sherley v. Sebelius, the researchers claim that the Guidelines violated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, an appropriations rider that bars federal funding for research in which a human embryo is destroyed.

The circuit court vacated a preliminary injunction issued by the district court in the case, finding that the plaintiffs were unlikely to prevail because Dickey-Wicker is ambiguous. The circuit noted that while Dickey-Wicker bars funding for the destructive act of deriving an embryonic stem cell from an embryo, it does not prohibit funding all embryonic stem-cell research projects.

District Judge Royce Lamberth, who indicated that he was constrained by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, dismissed the case in July.

While life-advocacy groups are closely following the case, the plaintiffs' claim does not explicitly champion pro-life goals; instead, the researchers claim that federal funding for embryonic stem cell research adversely impacted their ability to get grants for adult stem cell research, reports the Boston Globe.

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