80 Nobel Laureates Sign Letter to Encourage Bush to Continue Funding Stem Cell Research

WASHINGTON, Feb 22, 2001 ( – Advanced Cell Technology Inc. (ACT) has managed to get 80 U.S. Nobel laureates to sign a letter to President George W. Bush urging him to continue the Clinton-sanctioned federal funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research. In 1998, the Massachusetts company announced that it had created a live human-animal hybrid by fusing a human somatic cell with an egg from a cow. ACT President and CEO Michael West and an ACT colleague Tovert Lanza drafted and circulated the letter to Bush and had it faxed to the White House this morning.

Funding for embryonic stem cell research is contentious since live human embryos used for this research are killed in the process. The lobby letter argues that since left over, unused embryos created for in-vitro fertilization are discarded, using them in the destructive research is acceptable. “While we recognize the legitimate ethical issues raised by this research, it is important to understand that the cells being used in this research were destined to be discarded in any case,” the letter said. “Under these circumstances, it would be tragic to waste this opportunity to pursue the work that could potentially alleviate human suffering.”

The funds for such research were only to be released after March 15, leaving the new Administration time to consider the matter. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson is currently reviewing the funding. Thompson has previously come out in favour of such funding, but the companies involved in the destructive research fear that President Bush may nix it by executive order.

The letter admits that there are alternate ethical forms of stem cell research involving adult cells, but fails to mention that cells from umbilical cords are also available. It adds that such research is years behind the use of embryonic stem cells, hence the signors believe that their demands for the use of embryonic stem cells are warranted. In their defence, they also point out that the use of cells from aborted babies in various common human virus vaccines “such as measles, rubella, hepatitis A, rabies and poliovirus” have established a “precedent for the use of fetal tissue that would otherwise be discarded.”

Richard Doerflinger, of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, reacted to the news telling the Washington Post: “Nobody ever said these Nobel prizes are for ethics.” Meanwhile the American Family Association and other pro-life groups are encouraging all those concerned for life to write President Bush and Mr. Thompson asking them to end the funding for destructive research with human embryos.

See the American Family Association Action Item on Stopping the Funding:

See the Lobby letter signed by the Nobel Laureates:

See the 1998 ACT press release announcing their animal-human hybrid creation:

See coverage in the Washington Post: