Thursday, June 9, 2011

Obama pledges to "restore science to its rightful place"

For stem cell scientists watching the inaugural speech of US President Barack Obama, the words they've waited almost eight years to hear came about a third of the way in.

"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise healthcare’s quality and lower its cost."

Obama did not mention stem cell research specifically, but that line is well in keeping with promises he made during the election to restore federal funding to embryonic stem cell research, including this pledge to Science Debate 2008:

"As president, I will lift the current administration’s ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001 through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight."

It was on August 9, 2001, that Obama's predecessor George Bush went on national television that Washington would no longer fund embryonic stem cell research -- except on stem cell lines begun before that day.

Since then, American scientists have been hampered in their work.

At a meeting of stem cell researchers in Toronto, top US scientists openly complained to me that the federal ban forced them to keep separate labs, equipment and records to ensure that no money from Washington ever got used on the banned work. They also had mounds of paperwork to fill out proving where the money went.

It all made for inefficient operations, with many scientists have been looking forward to this day.


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