Stem Cell Research Flourishes Abroad

Mar 21, 2011   

Outside the United States, stem cell research is thriving, in part due to the availability of government funding. As reported here, the stringent requirements for obtaining federal funding for stem cell research in the U.S. may have unintended consequences, such as the migration of research abroad. Unlike the hurdles faced in the U.S., scientists abroad encounter fewer restrictions when trying to obtain government funding for stem cell research.

With the ongoing debate over the availability of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research having no end in sight, publicly-funded research in the United States has been constrained. As we previously reported, much of the public funding for this type of research has been from the individual states, even though the federal government provides greater funding for stem cell research overall. Certain restrictions on the availability of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research have stalled advancement in this area, forcing private companies to the forefront of innovation.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is the agency responsible for overseeing medical research and funding on behalf of the U.S. government. Because NIH is bound by restrictions in federal law, the Agency cannot approve funding for research that may destroy a human embryo. As we previously reported, the details and interpretation of this law have led those opposing human embryonic stem cell research to bring suit against the NIH. While the meaning of this provision is being actively litigated, NIH is unable to approve government grants for research that involves microscopic embryos, as small as eight-cells in size.

With advances in embryonic stem cell research being slowed from the lack of government funding, private companies in the United States are taking the lead in this area. Because the research and development of embryonic stem cell lines by these companies is privately funded, the issues obstructing researchers that depend on government grants have become less consequential.

While pending legal battles largely centered on moral debates have suspended efforts to reform the availability of federal funding in the U.S., other countries are forging ahead by considering the future advantages that development in research may bring. Where the lack of public funding has stalled efforts in the U.S., there has been a surge in government-sponsored stem cell research in this area abroad.

Fuerst Ittleman has been engaged to draft a variety of statutes on behalf of foreign governments pertaining to stem cell regulation. Covering issues pertaining to stem cell therapy, protection of the practice of medicine, and other research-related issues and protocols, we are currently in the process of helping two countries in the western hemisphere develop the statutory schemes necessary to advance in this area. For more information about the current regulatory framework surrounding stem cells or any other stem cell-related issues you may be facing contact us at