WASHINGTON (CN) – The government can resume funding human embryonic stem cell research while a federal appeals court considers the Obama administration’s appeal of a judge’s ban of the funding, the D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth blocked the funding in August after finding that using federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research violated federal law.
The Obama administration appealed the preliminary injunction, saying new guidelines for stem cell research enacted in July 2009 complied with federal law.
The D.C. Circuit on Tuesday granted the Justice Department’s request to stay the injunction pending appeal.
On Monday, the appellate panel heard oral arguments from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Beth Brinkmann for the government, and plaintiff lead attorney Thomas Hungar of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, who is representing two stem cell scientists and others challenging the legality of the administration’s funding policy.
Brinkmann argued that cutting off funds for human embryonic stem cell research would shut off 24 projects, including nine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), endangering scientists’ jobs and trashing $64 million in funding.
Hungar said funding the projects with taxpayer money violated federal law, which states that federal funds cannot be used for research in which an embryo is created or destroyed. Brinkmann said the derivation of a stem cell line, which involved the destruction of an embryo, was not part of later stem cell research.
In its stay order, the court said it will expedite its consideration of the appeal.
“President Obama made expansion of stem cell research and the pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures a top priority when he took office,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement Tuesday. “We’re heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved.”
The case is before Judges Judith Rogers, Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh.