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Research Community Letter: Use of Embryonic Stem Cells

webfeller   |   July 29, 1999

The Honorable John Edward Porter
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
2373 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-1310

Dear Mr. Chairman:

This past February we wrote to you regarding our support for federal funding of research using human pluripotent stem cells. With the Appropriations process progressing we write now to reiterate that support and to urge you to allow this research to move forward.

Human pluripotent stem cells have enormous potential for treatment of disease because they have the ability to form into any type of cell in the body. But only a fraction of the work that will be necessary to transform this potential into reality has yet begun, and only a fraction of the biomedical research community has been able to participate because the federal government has not yet funded any of this work. The National Institutes of Health are in the process of completing guidelines that will permit and govern the use of these cells by federally funded investigators. Only when these guidelines are in place will it be possible to unleash the full capability of the biomedical research workforce toward bringing the remarkable potential of human pluripotent stem cells to fruition.

It is also clear that the American public supports federal funding of this research. A recent nationwide survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International has found that 74% of those polled favor funding of stem cell research by the NIH.

Some have argued that “adult” stem cells will be sufficient in our pursuit of treatments or cures of various diseases. While we believe that research in the area of adult stem cells is vital to the research effort, we are concerned that to restrict work to that area alone will prove insufficient and would be a grave mistake. The prospect of cutting off an avenue of research as promising as that with embryonic stem cells at this very early stage of discovery deeply troubles those of us who conduct and promote health research. Such a prohibition could delay possible treatments for diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by years. Past work on animals has shown us that it is the embryonic stem cells that hold the greatest potential in their ability to be manipulated for treatments of disease.

We are also concerned by the argument that embryonic stem cell research can be left to the private sector. While it is clear that a few privately funded centers are working on pluripotent stem cell research, it is not generally the practice of private companies to conduct this kind of basic research into fundamental developmental processes. That is why it has been and remains the role of the federal government to make the lion’s share of the investment in basic research, which has then been used by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to develop products used for treating diseases. And that is why we cannot rely on private industry to conduct the kind of basic research necessary to move the field of stem cell research from the laboratory bench to the clinic.

Our intent is simply to ensure that research on stem cell lines is not unduly restricted. With appropriate ethical safeguards, such as those being developed by the National Institutes of Health, we believe that a balance can be achieved, which respects both the moral status of the embryo and the public’s sensitivity to this issue while ensuring progress in critical medical research. As we have said before, the government can play an important role of oversight so that our nation’s federally funded scientists can conduct this critical work. Federal support will also increase the financial resources directed to this area of research, which will speed the pace of scientific discovery.

With the great hope pluripotent stem cell research provides to patients ailing or dying from devastating diseases, we urge the Congress to allow this research to move forward with federal support.


Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists
Alliance for Aging Research
Alliance for Lung Cancer
Advocacy, Support and Education
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Association for Cancer Research
American Association for Dental Research
American Association of Anatomists
American Association of Dental Schools
American Association of Immunologists
American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
American Burn Association
American College of Clinical Pharmacology
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American College of Physicians – American Society of Internal Medicine
American Gastroenterological Association
American Medical Association
American Neurological Association
American Parkinson’s Disease Association
American Pediatric Society
American Physiological Society
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
American Society for Bone and Mineral Research
American Society for Cell Biology
American Society for Clinical Nutrition
American Society for Investigative Pathology
American Society for Microbiology
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
American Society of Clinical Oncology
American Society of Hematology
American Society of Human Genetics
American Thoracic Society
American Veterinary Medical Association
Americans for Medical Progress
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Association of Academic Health Centers
Association of American Cancer Institutes
Association of American Medical Colleges
Association of American Universities
Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology
Association of Independent Research Institutes
Association of Medical and Graduate Departments of Biochemistry
Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs Association of Medical School Psychologists
Association of Professors of Medicine
Association of Subspecialty Professors
Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine
Association of University Radiologists
Boston University School of Medicine
Cancer Leadership Council
Cancer Research Foundation of America
Citizens for Public Action on High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
Coalition for American Trauma Care
Columbia University
College on Problems of Drug Dependence
Cornell University
Cure for Lymphoma Foundation
Dartmouth Medical School
Duke University
East Carolina University School of Medicine
Easter Seals
The Endocrine Society
Eye Bank of America
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Genetics Society of America
Glaucoma Research Foundation
Harvard University
Interstitial Cystitis Association of America, Inc.
Johns Hopkins University
Joint Council of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study
March of Dimes
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Medical College of Wisconsin
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Inc.
Myositis Association of America, Inc.
National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
National Association for Biomedical Research
National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges
National Caucus of Basic Biomedical Science Chairs
National Childhood Cancer Foundation
National Coalition for Cancer Research
National Health Council
National Mental Health Association
National Osteoporosis Foundation
The National Pemphigus Foundation
National Psoriasis Foundation
National Spinal Cord Injury Association
New York University School of Medicine
Oncology Nursing Society
Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Parkinson’s Action Network
The Protein Society
Research Society on Alcoholism
RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association
Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Scleroderma Foundation
Scleroderma Research Foundation
Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation
Society for Investigative Dermatology
Society for Pediatric Research
Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
Society for the Advancement of Women’s Health Research
Society of Critical Care Medicine
Stanford University School of Medicine
University of California
University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine
University of Florida
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Michigan Medical School
University of Pittsburgh
University of Rochester Medical Center
University of Utah Health Sciences Center
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin-Madison
UPMC Health System
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Yale University

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