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Stem cell work can continue, for now

The Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided Tuesday afternoon to allow federally funded human embryonic stem cell research to continue, while the federal government appeals a lower court injunction that barred the work.

The appeals court had issued a temporary “administrative stay” of the preliminary injunction on Sept. 10. After hearing extended oral argument Monday on whether to grant a longer stay, the court decided on Tuesday that it would issue a longer stay “pending appeal.” Stem cell research can now continue until the appeals court hears and decides on the appeal that is before it.

On Thursday, the appeals court set the schedule for the appeal. The government’s first brief is due on Oct. 14, the brief from the appellees (adult stem cell researchers James L. Sherley and Theresa A. Deisher) is due on Oct. 28. The government’s reply brief is due on Nov. 4.

Meanwhile, various advocacy groups are getting involved in the case. Both the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research and the Genetics Policy Institute moved for permission to file amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs in the lower court case on Wednesday.

GPI’s 32-page brief focused narrowly on the meaning of the word “research,” which is central to the debate about the applicability of the congressional appropriations rider, the Dickey-Wicker amendment, to stem cell research.

John A. Hawkinson