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Obama Will Unveil His Stem Cell Policy. Boosters Debate the Choreography

Stem cell supporters are in a frenzy over the coming change in presidential policy and have been holding press conferences abrim with enthusiasm, if not content. But at a meeting today at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C., held to release a report called A Life Sciences Crucible, some differences emerged on how the new Administration should proceed in normalizing stem cell research and sheltering it from the political winds that have buffeted it during the Bush Administrations.

CAP wants President-elect Barack Obama to swiftly issue an Executive Order erasing the Bush restrictions, and for Congress to pass a bill that explicitly allows federally funded researchers access to human embryonic stem cell lines derived after August 2001.

But Amy Comstock Rick, head of the patient-oriented Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, warned that it's important how the Executive Order is worded. Executive Orders can come and go, she noted, so this one shouldn't be used to spell out criteria for research. Rather, she said the order should simply put the whole subject "back where it belongs"--in NIH's capable hands. By the same token, she said, her group opposes passing a new law which she said would not be "conducive to flexible decision making."

CAP is also calling for a special working group for clinical research using embryonic stem cells to be created within NIH's Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee. The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research disagrees with that, too. It's just another layer of national oversight on subjects that should be left to existing institutional oversight committees, said Rick. "Separate special structures" to oversee stem cell research still smack of political motivations.

Looks like the shouting may have subsided in the world of stem cell politics, but it's far from over.