Oral Hearing Scheduled in Stem Cell Injunction Appeal

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will have a few more days in which to review and fund pending grants that deal with human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) before the next court ruling in the lawsuit that claims such funding is illegal. Yesterday, in an unexpected move, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit scheduled a 30-minute oral hearing on 24 September to hear arguments on whether Chief Judge Royce Lamberth's injunction that blocked NIH funding for work with the cells should be lifted while the case is being litigated. That will extend by at least 4 days the temporary stay that the court issued on 9 September that allowed NIH to resume grant reviews and intramural research dealing with the cells. The appeals court previously set a 20 September deadline for filing briefs in the appeal, and most observers had expected a ruling shortly thereafter.

At the hearing, each side will have 15 minutes to argue the merits of—or problems with—the injunction before a three-judge panel. Two of the judges on the panel will be different from those who heard an earlier appeal in the case. That panel decided that two stem cell researchers, James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, had standing to bring their lawsuit because they could be harmed by NIH funding of hESC work if it diverted support from their adult stem cell research.

UPDATE, 4:50 p.m.: The oral argument has been rescheduled for 27 September.

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