Bush Administration Defends Limits on Stem Cell Research
Nevertheless, the arrangement raises patent and intellectual property issues that scientists will have to confront with for-profit ventures.
Caplan tells WebMD, "Bush is talking about some cell lines that will never become available here, because the companies won't want to make them available. They are going to push their commercial interests. Companies may say, 'We are not giving this to you unless you agree to give us a share of anything you ever invent,' which a lot of universities will not like."
Thompson said that the NIH would begin funding research using cells from the already-created lines as early as next year.
The existing cell lines come from the U.S. and other countries, including Israel, Australia, Sweden, and Singapore. They were all created from excess embryos from in vitro fertility activities, officials said. According to the NIH, all of these cells meet ethical requirements, including that their parent embryos were donated to science under informed consent and that the embryo donors weren't given money to influence their decision.
Meanwhile, overall reactions varied on Bush's stem cell decision. "Countless millions of real human persons will lose their lives as a direct consequence of President Bush's decision to authorize federal funding for stem cell research," said Judie Brown, president of American Life League. She claimed, "His decision says, 'if babies are already dead, the U.S. has no problem funding research on their body parts.'"
But another prominent pro-life organization was more satisfied with Bush. "We are delighted that President Bush's decision prevents the federal government from becoming a party to any further killing of human embryos for medical experimentation," said Laura Echevarria, spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said, "This initial research may ultimately serve as a pretext for vastly expanded research that does require the destruction of new living embryos."
But science and patient groups say that they are going to actively lobby Congress to pass legislation that would permit stem cell research from all the excess embryos in the nation's in vitro fertility clinics. There are an estimated 100,000 frozen in vitro embryos. Under current law, leftover in vitro embryos can legally be discarded.
Rep. Amo Houghton (R- N.Y.) said, "I'm going to continue working to open up all research -- it's that important. If there are too many restrictions on funding, and the way research is conducted, this will all move overseas."
This more generous federal support would be in line with what the Clinton administration had proposed, but doesn't appear to have the votes to survive a Bush veto.