The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit approved a request Thursday from the Justice Department to lift a temporary injunction, issued Aug. 23 by a lower court, that had blocked the funding of stem cell research.
The three-judge appeals panel, though, stated that this was not a final decision: "The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion." Opponents of stem cell funding have until next week (Sept. 14) to file a response; the government must submit its response by Sept. 20.
In a lawsuit filed by two researchers working on alternatives to the cells, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled last month that the current funding had violated the Dickey Wicker Amendment, a law that that prohibits federal money from being used for research involving the destruction of human embryos. On Tuesday, Lamberth had declined a request to lift the stay.
In response to the District Court order, the National Institutes of Health had suspended consideration of any new grants related to stem cell research. The researchers who had received prior funding could continue; however, their grants could not be renewed as they came up for routine review while the injunction was in effect.