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Democrats Demand Lift on Fetal Tissue Research Restrictions

April 13, 2021, 7:07 PM

Vital scientific research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal cord injuries, and Parkinson’s disease are at risk of stalling if the Biden administration doesn’t lift restrictions to use fetal tissue in clinical research, 26 Democrats said in a letter sent to the HHS Tuesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services banned scientists who work for the National Institutes of Health from using fetal tissue in 2019. A Trump-era policy also severely curtailed access to federal funding for outside scientists looking to use fetal tissue in biomedical research. When a new administration took over, scientists hoped President Joe Biden would pull back the fetal tissue ban and make funding more readily available for scientists looking to use it.

So far that hasn’t happened. The group of Democrats, led by Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), are pushing HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to make changes.

Fetal tissue will merely be discarded if not used for scientific research, the letter said. “The longstanding legal and ethical framework for the oversight of fetal tissue research has been in place for decades and ensures compliance with federal law and ethics rules,” it said.

Signatories called the ban “politically motivated and unnecessary.”

The current policy curtails fetal tissue research by requiring outside scientists looking to use the tissue to send their grant application to a controversial ethics review board for approval. Previously, the board rejected all but one grant application, and the one it did accept was a study on alternatives to fetal tissue research. Scientists fear that trend will continue if the policy isn’t reversed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacquie Lee in Washington at jlee1@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com

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