NIH Releases New Requirements for Fetal Tissue Research Funding

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) revised its grant application guidance for researchers planning to use fetal tissue, requiring that researchers comply with the Trump administration’s recently instituted restrictions on this type of research.

This change to NIH policy comes after the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) decision in June to limit funding of research using fetal tissue donated after elective abortions. It was met with objections from health and science advisers but was well received by social conservatives.

New grant application instructions require scientists to provide a detailed justification of why their project depends on the use of fetal tissue and why no alternative methods could accomplish the same research goals. In addition, these new rules forbid graduate and postdoctoral students who receive NIH training funds from proposing fetal tissue research, a first for the NIH.

The Trump administration has already halted any new fetal tissue research by staff scientists at the NIH. Outside researchers are still able to conduct such research but will face increased ethics reviews.

Fetal tissue is seen as a crucial tool in research that has provided researchers insight and the ability to develop therapies for diseases like HIV, cancer, Zika virus, and Parkinson’s.

NIH spokeswoman Renate Myles told The Washington Post that the new instructions were codeveloped by NIH and HHS and that they will be effective September 25, coinciding with the agency’s next grant cycle. Ms. Myles noted that the ethics advisory boards, whose members will carry out the new process of review, are currently being formed and will be composed of “scientists, bio-ethicists, and others.”

Source: The Washington Post, July 26, 2019.