Politics in the Lab: Federal Officials Halt Research Using Fetal Tissue

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is conducting an audit on federally funded research that uses fetal tissue. Several studies have been effectively shut down by federal officials, even though a final decision on whether to continue funding such research has not been reached.

According to The Washington Post, a senior scientist at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) laboratory in Montana told colleagues that HHS “has directed me to discontinue procuring fetal tissue. … This effectively stops all of our research to discover a cure for HIV.”

An NIH spokesperson said that when HHS began its review of fetal tissue use, researchers were not going to be entirely blocked from accessing it and could reach out to top officials if they needed more. However, this did not happen for the Montana laboratory.

“This is scientific censorship of the worst kind,” Warner Greene, MD, PhD, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, who was poised to collaborate with a researcher from the Montana laboratory, told The Washington Post.

Other research also has been affected. An academic laboratory in California – a key player in the development of drugs to treat HIV – was recently informed that its seven-year NIH contract would not be extended. In addition, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration contract with Advanced Bioscience Resources, the only U.S. company that supplies tissues to research labs, has been terminated.

Source: The Washington Post, December 9, 2018.