NIH Issues Draft Stem Cell Funding Guidelines, Focuses on Embryos Generated for IVF

On Friday the National Institutes of Health issued draft guidelines for funding research on stem cells.  This guidelines are in response to the March Executive Order issued by President Obama revising the previous funding constraints on stem cell research.  The guidelines are for extramural research, as internal NIH procedures cover all intramural research.

As is all too common with this issue, things get blurred pretty quickly.  This funding and associated guidelines are for research conducted on the stem cells, and cannot fund the derivation of human embryos.  The Dickey-Wicker Amendment bans such derivation.  The guidelines also restrict NIH funding to embryonic stem cells derived from embryos created for reproductive purposes that would otherwise be discarded.  Research on adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells can *continue* to be funded by NIH dollars.  As it stands, this is not a free-for-all.  From the announcement of the draft guidelines:

NIH funding for research using human embryonic stem cells derived from other sources, including somatic cell nuclear transfer, parthenogenesis, and/or IVF embryos created for research purposes, is not allowed under these Guidelines.

As I noted, these are draft guidelines, and comments can be submitted to NIH.  The comment period is 30 days from the publication of a notice of rulemaking in the Federal Register, which should happen this week.  Check back to the NIH link I provided above to find the final date for comments, which should be no later than May 24, along with more specifics about how and where to send your comments.

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White House Finally Appoints Chief Technology Officer

As part of his weekly internet and radio address, President Obama announced the appointment of Aneesh Chopra as his Chief Technology Officer.  This position is brand new (but often promised on the campaign), although there is a bill in Congress to establish the position on a more permanent basis.

Mr. Chopra is currently the Secretary of Technology for the State of Virginia.  The new Chief Information Offcier for the federal government, Mr. Vivek Kundra, worked in the same department earlier in his career.  The CTO position, as described in the address, would focus on promoting technological innovation in the support of government priorities.  In conjunction with the CIO, and newly appointed Chief Performance Officer, the CTO would also assist in the administration’s open government efforts, increasing the transparency and availability of data.

Aside from this being a brand new position, an interesting part of the job could be the responsibilities in the promotion of technological innovation.  This is a bit more targeted responsibility than what the Office of Science and Technology Policy has typically had with respect to technology.  There is the potential for a turf war here over technology, given an issue that would prompt interest from both parts of the Executive Office of the President.