Filing suit to block competition for federal funding?

This is almost unbelievable. Apparently a federal judge has blocked the Obama administration’s change to stem cell research policy.

There’s this gem of a paragraph at Forbes on the story:

A federal appeals court had ruled that two fellow plaintiffs – doctors who do research with adult stem cells, James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology – were entitled to sue over the new guidelines, prompting U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth on Monday to reverse a decision he made in October when he dismissed the lawsuit.

Sherley and Deisher allege that the guidelines will result in increased competition for limited federal funding and will injure their ability to compete successfully for National Institutes of Health stem cell research money.

I almost fell over when I read that so went searching for confirmation and found this at USA Today:

Lamberth’s reversal follows a federal appeals court ruling that allowed two adult-stem-cell researchers to pursue a lawsuit, claiming that the new guidelines would increase competition for limited federal funds and that it violated federal law.

Lamberth said that the “injury” of increased competition that James Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology would face “is not speculative. It is actual and imminent. Indeed, the guidelines threaten the very livelihood of plaintiffs Sherley and Deisher.”

I really don’t know what to say but this seems like a dangerous precedent to me from Judge Lamberth. There is obviously more to the ruling than the dangers of competition for NIH funding (seriously, I can’t believe this) as part of the ruling is based on anti stem cell interests but this NIH thing appears to have played a part. And, yes, if you think you recognize the name James Sherley from something else, you probably do.

UPDATE: In case you don’t go all the way down in the comments, look what DM found

This is pretty rich:

In documents submitted as part of the lawsuit, Dr. Sherley signed a statement saying that he uses only adult human stem cells in his work and that he relies on the National Institutes of Health for the vast majority of the grants he receives. He said the institutes’ decision to finance human embryonic stem cell research “will result in increased competition for the limited resources that are available to fund human stem cell research, threatening my ability to obtain federal funding for my adult stem cell research.”

NIH Reporter shows two projects. You be the judge.

Here’s another interesting bit of text from the article on Dr. Deisher:

Formerly the vice president of research and development at CellCyte Genetics, Dr. Deisher told the police that she had been blamed for the company’s “downfall.” The company was charged in 2009 with making false statements about its research while Dr. Deisher still worked at the company, although Dr. Deisher was not charged in the case.

Dr. Deisher co-founded and now works for the Ave Maria Biotechnology Company, which works to “provide safe, effective and affordable alternative vaccines and stem cell therapies that are not tainted by embryonic or electively aborted fetal materials,” its Web site states.

In a statement submitted as part of the lawsuit, Dr. Deisher wrote that she was applying for grants from the health institutes but competition from embryonic stem cell researchers hurt her chances.

17 responses to “Filing suit to block competition for federal funding?

  1. I figured you would!

  2. aagh. dude, what happened to your blog???

    • I’m playing around with new themes because the old one doesn’t have support for some of the new widgets that are available in wordpress. I’m not sure I like this one so I may keep playing with it for a few days.

  3. Cool! So can I sue my competitors for limiting my chances to get grant money and publications?

    • Apparently so. I was thinking that this could go even further where you could sue members of study section because they were competing with you in a given area and could limit your chances for funding.

      A quick search of NIH Reporter shows that these two don’t have any NIH funding right now (although Sherley has an equipment grant but that’s a one-off).

  4. What about scooping? That would limit my ability to seek funding. I’m suing anyone who publishes something I’m working on before I get my paper out!

    • Yeah, this is so messed up on so many levels. Now, as I understand it, all that has been established is that competition for federal funds gives them standing for their suit but still, all you really need is time…

  5. The whole part of their case about the NIH funding is a pretty silly claim that had to be thrown in for legal reasons. According to the Judge’s decision (which I read – BLECH, and went through here:

    An injunction is a last resort move for the judge, so they had to make a case of immediate financial harm in order to get him to make the move. It’s just cover for the moral side of the case, and it should be treated as such.

    • Agreed that its a silly reason and almost certainly cover for religious case; however, its out there now as reason to give standing so not sure it shouldn’t be treated very seriously.

      • If it made sense to bet on court cases, I bet that part gets thrown out by a higher court. It just doesn’t hold any water as a real basis for this case. In a legal sense, I hope it is well accepted by most that merit = funding (try not to laugh at that).

        But the injunction is there now. Even if that part gets thrown out by a higher court, the Dickey-Wicker conflict still exists, and I am flabbergasted that no one saw this coming.

  6. Exactly the problem with doing things for convenient reasons to provide cover for the *real* reason. Unintended consequences come back to bite you in the ass.

    This is why we need to hold the hard line against attacks on the scientific process (see this stupid ARRA-critique stuff Sens McCain and Coburn are up to) which are just cover for the same-old political games…

  7. Pingback: Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Harming the Livelihood of Adult Stem Cell Researchers « Pasco Phronesis

  8. Deisher may be a little odd as well…

    autism is caused by “aborted fetal DNA contamination” of vaccines according to her

  9. It was BioE! who put me on the other story, btw. I hadn’t thought to wonder about her since Sherley was such a curious figure. “Ave Maria” as a company name? Interesting choice der, you betcha.

  10. Pingback: What’s Next After the Stem Cell Injunction « Pasco Phronesis

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