Stem Cell Update

By: Amy Comstock Rick
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 1:30 PM

Parkinson’s community,

The stem cell litigation continues to wind its way through the US court system.  As you may recall, the lawsuit is currently in both the District Court, before Judge Lamberth, and in the Court of Appeals, before a three-judge panel.  The District Court is receiving arguments “on the merits” whereas the Court of Appeals is technically ruling on whether Judge Lamberth was legally correct when he issued a preliminary injunction on August 23.  However, it remains our hope that the Court of Appeals, in hearing arguments on the preliminary injunction, will issue an order that resolves the whole case. 

Three significant briefs have been filed in the Court of Appeals in the last few days.  On Thursday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) filed its brief.  Once again, they did an excellent job representing the National Institutes of Health.  Their brief is particularly strong on why the legislative history for Dickey Wicker supports the government’s interpretation and on supporting the need for human embryonic stem cell research to be conducted along with adult and induced pluripotent research.  I am hopeful that the Court of Appeals will find DoJ’s arguments compelling.

Two amicus briefs were also filed this week in support of the DoJ brief.  An amicus brief is a brief filed by an outside party in a lawsuit that wants to offer additional information for the court to consider.  The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), in conjunction with the State of Wisconsin and the Genetics Policy Institute (GPI), filed an amicus brief on Monday and yesterday the University of California (UC) filed its own amicus.  The Court of Appeals requires that amicius filers attempt to coordinate, so we are pleased that both Wisconsin and GPI agreed to join with CAMR’s brief.  Both the CAMR brief and the UC brief do an excellent job supporting the government’s position, although they are quite different from each other.  The CAMR brief focuses on the process of stem cell line derivation (which is not done with federal funds) and the legislative history.  The UC brief goes back to the earlier decision of the Court of Appeals that grants standing to the two plaintiffs.  In my opinion, the UC brief makes an excellent case for why the Court of Appeals should reverse its earlier decision and dismiss this whole case on the grounds that the plaintiffs do not have standing. 

The DoJ brief and both amicus briefs can be found on the CAMR website at

The next significant dates in the Court of Appeals are October 28, when the plaintiffs’ brief is due, and then November 4 when DoJ’s final reply will be filed.  We expect oral argument to occur shortly thereafter although oral argument is not yet scheduled.  The briefing schedule for the District Court mirrors the Appeals court schedule so it is our expectation that Judge Lamberth will wait for the Court of Appeals ruling before he rules. 

On the legislative front, we are still urging you to reach out to your Members of Congress to urge a legislative fix to this problem.  We are fearful that, in this complicated legislative year, Congress will not take up this urgent issue.  Without a legislative fix and until we have a court ruling, we cannot guarantee that federal funding for this important research will continue.  Please contact your Members.

Thank you for all of your support for PAN and the issues that are so important to the Parkinson’s community.

Amy Comstock Rick Signature
Amy Comstock Rick