Stem Cell Litigants No Stranger to Scientific Limelight

A day after the Justice Department said it plans to appeal the injunction that suspended federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, more details have emerged on the scientists who won this round. James Sherley, a stem cell researcher at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute in Watertown, Massachusetts, staged a hunger strike in 2007 when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) denied him tenure. Sherley said the decision was based on racism. When Sherley was ultimately dismissed, an MIT colleague, Frank Douglas, resigned in protest over how the university handled the case.

Theresa Deisher is the founder of AVM Biotechnology in Seattle, Washington. She worked for several biotechnology companies before founding AVM in 2007, receiving plaudits from some activists for ethical stem cell work. According to the Los Angeles Times, she told Seattle police in 2008 that she was being harassed by former colleagues who blamed her for releasing information that the company was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The AVM Web site includes a number of interviews and opinion pieces in which she criticizes research using embryos or fetal tissue, including for example, vaccines based on fetal cells.

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