Today Congressman Maffei toured Upstate Medical University with Dr. Bill Kerr, who is an Empire Scholar and the Murphy Family Professor of Children's Oncology Research. Dr. Kerr's research has been put on hold after a recent U.S. District Court ruling that placed a temporary injunction on the use of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. This ruling halted all embryonic stem cell research that had begun as a result of President Obama's Executive Order in March 2009.
Congressman Maffei said: "President Obama's decision to lift restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research created tremendous promise in medical and scientific research. The temporary injunction is deeply disappointing. It delays groundbreaking treatment and even cures for millions of patients and their families."
If the court's injunction is upheld, Dr. Kerr will be forced to either find private funding for his research (and conduct it in entirely separate labs from those which conduct any federally-funded research), halt his research, or leave the United States in order to pursue his research abroad.
The Department of Justice has announced they intend to appeal the decision. Regardless of the outcome of this appeal, however, this ruling underscores the need for legislation to allow for federal funding of ethical embryonic stem cell research. Congressman Maffei has cosponsored legislation introduced by Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Mike Castle (R-DE) known as the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act of 2009, which would codify the Obama Executive Order. It is largely the same as the two laws passed by Congress and vetoed by former President Bush in 2006 and 2008.
The Stem Cell Research Advancement Act of 2009 would:
· Retain the strong ethical requirements for embryonic stem cell research;
· Require the National Institutes of Health (or NIH) to maintain guidelines on all human stem cell research;
· Require the NIH to review the guidelines at least every three years and make periodic updates as scientifically warranted;
· Ban the use of federal funding for human cloning under the NIH guidelines; and
· Require a biennial report to Congress on the research.
Congressman Maffei said: "The potential of stem cells to cure disease is an unparalleled opportunity. It will help bring new treatments and cures to millions of Americans suffering from illness and disease and will restore our country's role as a leader in scientific research and innovation. I am a cosponsor of bipartisan stem cell legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that will, once and for all, ensure that this critical life-saving research can be conducted unimpeded by politics."