(CN) – Two doctors can sue the National Institute of Health over federal guidelines allowing the agency to fund expanded embryonic stem cell research, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
The federal appeals court reinstated the claims of Drs. James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, who challenged the institute’s relaxed guidelines on stem cell research funding.
For 50 years, scientists conducted research using only adult stem cells, found in the human body and in tissues discarded after birth. It wasn’t until 1998 that they began using human embryonic stem cells. The NIH did not fund such research until 2001, when President George W. Bush allowed the agency to fund embryonic stem cell research, but only for existing stem cells in storage.
President Obama removed that restriction last year, leading to the disputed guidelines.
The plaintiff doctors, Sherley and Deisher, specialize in adult stem cell research and compete for federal funding. Joining them as plaintiffs were the Christian Medical Association and Nightlight Christian Adoptions, which helps people adopt embryos stored in fertilization clinics, and two of its clients.
Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed their challenge for lack of standing, but the D.C. Circuit revived the doctors’ claims.
“The doctors have met the basic requirement for competitor standing,” Judge Douglas Ginsburg concluded, because the new guidelines will undoubtedly increase the number of grant applications.
“Because the guidelines have intensified the competition for a share in a fixed amount of money, the plaintiffs will have to invest more time and resources to craft a successful grant application,” Ginsburg wrote. “That is an actual, here-and-now injury.”
The court added that the doctors’ claims fall under an amendment barring federal funding of research involving human embryos.