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San Diego Biotechs Impacted By Stem Cell Ruling

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYb-C6J9nMQ

Video published August 27, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: We'll find out how a court ruling on federally funded stem cell research will impact the local biotech industry.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

SAN DIEGO'S MEDICAL RESEARCH COMMUNITY SAW YET ANOTHER SHARP TURN IN FEDERAL POLICY ON STEM CELLS THIS WEEK. A JUDGE HAS STOPPED FEDERAL FUNDING FOR EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH. REPORTER TOM FUDGE HAS BEEN COVERING THIS STORY FOR US AND HE JOINS ME NOW. TOM, THANKS FOR BEING HERE.

YOU'RE WELCOME.

WHAT DID THE JUDGE RULE THIS WEEK?

FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT JUDGE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, I BELIEVE, RULED THAT ANY EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH VIOLATES FEDERAL LAW, VIOLATES LAW WHICH IS CALLED THE DICKEY WICKER AMENDMENT AND THE DICKEY WICKER AMENDMENT ESSENTIALLY OUTLAWS ANY FEDERAL FUNDING OF ANY RESEARCH THAT IN WHICH AN EMBRYO IS EITHER DISCARDED OR DESTROYED. NOW IN THE PAST ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS HAVE FIGURED THAT WORKING WITH EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS THEMSELVES DID NOT VIOLATE THE DICKEY WICKER AMENDMENT, BUT THIS JUDGE SAID NO. IF YOU'RE WORKING WITH EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS, THAT MEANS YOU'VE DESTROYED AN EMBRYO AND THAT VIOLATES THE LAW.

SO WE'VE GOT A REALLY LARGE BIOTECH COMMUNITY HERE IN SAN DIEGO. HOW DOES IT AFFECT THEM?

OH, I TALKED TO A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE INVOLVED IN THAT KIND OF RESEARCH AND THEY WERE SHOCKED. THIS HAPPENED, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND, AFTER BARACK OBAMA BROUGHT THEM WHAT THEY CONSIDERED TO BE GOOD NEWS BECAUSE BARACK OBAMA THROUGH EXECUTIVE ORDER ENDED UP LIFTING MANY OF THE RESTRICTIONS THAT HAD BEEN PLACED ON EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH BY THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND SO THEM THOUGHT THAT THEY WERE DOING PRETTY WELL AND SUDDENLY THEY HAVE THIS JUDGE'S RULING WHICH NOT ONLY MAKES STEM CELL RESEARCH UNDER BARACK OBAMA ILLEGAL IT, WOULD HAVE MADE THE STEM CELL RESEARCH THAT WAS GOING ON UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH ILLEGAL AND SO THEY WERE VERY SHOCKED BY THIS. ONE RESEARCHER AT UCSD TOLD ME THAT THIS RULING PUT HIS LAB IN A STATE OF TURMOIL. YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE FEDERAL FUNDING IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ANY KIND OF MEDICAL RESEARCH IN THIS COUNTRY. THE MONEY THAT COMES FROM THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH IS A HUGE AMOUNT OF MONEY AND THIS IS WHAT FUNDS STEM CELL RESEARCH AND LOTS OF OTHER RESEARCH AS WELL AND IF YOU HAVE TO TAKE THAT MONEY AND SEPARATE IT FROM ALL OF YOUR OWN FUNDS WHEN YOU'RE WORKING ON STEM CELL RESEARCH, THAT'S VERY COMPLICATED. THAT'S VERY DIFFICULT AND AS FAR AS THESE SCIENTISTS ARE CONCERNED, IT REALLY SETS THEM BACK.

DO WE HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH MONEY SCIENTISTS STAND TO LOSE BECAUSE OF THIS RULING?

I DON'T KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH MONEY AS IT CONCERNS STEM CELL RESEARCH, BUT CONSIDER THE FACT THAT ONE CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT IN THE SAN DIEGO REGION, THE DISTRICT THAT INCLUDES TORREY PINES MESA, UCSD, IN THAT ONE DISTRICT APPROXIMATELY HALF A BILLION DOLLARS COMES TO RESEARCH IN THAT AREA FROM THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH EVERY YEAR. SO IT'S A HUGE AMOUNT OF MONEY. ANY TIME YOU'RE DOING MEDICAL RESEARCH AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, MONEY FROM THE NIH IS THE MOTHER LOAD. THAT'S WHAT REALLY KEEPS YOUR LAB IN BUSINESS AND SO THIS IS A HUGE ISSUE FOR STEM CELL SCIENTISTS.

WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT THIS RESEARCH IS. WHAT KINDS OF DISCOVERIES ARE SCIENTISTS HOPING TO MAKE? HOW DO THEY USE THIS IN THE LAB?

WELL, LET ME TELL YOU A COUPLE OF THINGS. FIRST OF ALL, EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS COME FROM HUMAN EMBRYOS WHEN THEY'RE VERY SMALL, JUST SMALL CELLS, BUT THAT'S WHAT MAKES THEM CONTROVERSIAL BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO ARE ANTI- ABORTION, FOR INSTANCE, CONSIDER THIS TO BE TAKING OF A HUMAN LIFE. THAT'S WHY IT'S CONTROVERSIAL, BUT EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS ARE CONSIDERED BY SOME PEOPLE TO BE THE MOST VALUABLE KINDS OF STEM CELLS BECAUSE THEY'RE PLURY POTENT WHICH MEANS THEY'RE VERY FLEXIBLE AND THEORETICALLY A STEM CELL CAN BE TURNED INTO ANY CELL IN THE BODY. SO YOU CAN IMAGINE IF YOU HAVE NERVE DAMAGE, FOR INSTANCE, STEM CELLS THEORETICALLY COULD REPLACE THOSE NERVES AND REGENERATE THOSE NERVES AND THAT'S WHY STEM CELLS ARE SO IMPORTANT TO THE FUTURE OF MEDICAL SCIENCE. THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF STEM CELLS. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE EMBRYONIC AND THEREFORE, SOME STEM CELLS ARE NOT AS CONTROVERSIAL, BUT EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS ARE CONSIDERED BY SCIENTISTS TO BE VERY IMPORTANT TO THIS RESEARCH.

YOU TALKED ABOUT TALKING TO SOME PEOPLE LOCALLY IN BIOTECH. WHAT DO THEY SAY? YOU KNOW, THE DAY AFTER THIS RULING COMES DOWN YOU CALL THEM UP. WHAT ARE THEY TELLING YOU?

WELL, AS I SAID, THEY WERE SHOCKED. THEY LEGAL RULING THEY'D EVER SEEN BEFORE SAID THAT USING EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS DID NOT VIOLATE THE DICKEY WICKER AMENDMENT AND SO THEY THOUGHT THAT THIS WAS SETTLED LAW, SETTLED POLICY AND SUDDENLY A JUDGE IN WASHINGTON D.C. SAYS NO. THIS VIOLATES FEDERAL LAW. YOU CAN'T WORK ON EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? CAN THEY DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT?

WELL, BARACK OBAMA'S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HAS SAID THAT IT WILL APPEAL THIS JUDGE'S RULING. NOW THE JUDGE'S RULING WAS AN AN INJUNCTION AND THAT WHY IT'S STOPPED ALL THIS RESEARCH, BUT IT'S AN INJUNCTION AS PART OF A LARGER LAWSUIT THAT I ASSUME WILL GO FORWARD, BUT THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HAS APPEALED THE RULING ON THE INJUNCTION AND WE'LL HAVE TO SEE. IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE AN APPEALS COURT WILL SAY NO, NO, THIS IS NOT THE CORRECT LAW OR THIS HAS TO WAIT. THIS KIND OF ACTION HAS TO WAIT UNTIL THIS LAWSUIT IS FINISHED.

ANY TIMELINE, ANY GUESSES AS TO WHEN SOME OF THAT STARTS HAPPENING?

NO.

GREAT. WELL, KPBS REPORTER TOM FUDGE, THANKS FOR BEING HERE.

THANK YOU.

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