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NIH Today Supposed to Reveal Names of All Organizations Eligible for Federal Funding

Aired August 27, 2001 - 10:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with the latest on stem cell research. It could soon be getting a bit clearer, as the National Institutes of Health today are supposed to reveal the names of all the organizations that are eligible for federal funding. That question and the mystery surrounding it has become increasingly volatile in this emotional issue.

Joining us to explain what it mean, our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, good morning.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.

Daryn, on August 9th, when President Bush said, there are 64 stem cell lines out. There people replied with a course of doubt. They said, gee, we can only count 12, or 20 at the most. But today, the NIH put out on the Internet a list of these 64 lines, trying to prove, hey, we really do have 64, and now people can apply for federal funding. Let's take a look at where they come from. The Goteborg University in Sweden has 19 lines. That's the most. And San Diego, nine lines. Reliance Life Sciences in Bombay, India, seven lines. The Nash Institute of Reproductive Biology in Melbourne, Australia has six lines, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has five lines. Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which is part of the University of Wisconsin has five lines. BresaGen, which is in Athens, Georgia, a company there has four lines. The Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel has four lines. The National Center for Biological Sciences in India has three lines. And University of California at San Francisco has two lines. And if you do the math, that adds up to 64 lines.

Now those are the lines that researchers from around the world can apply to get federal funding to use those stem cell lines. And the reason why that's important is that up until now, if you wanted to do human embryonic stem cell research, you had to be using your own money or private donations. Right here you see a stem cell researcher at Johns Hopkins University.

However, now they're saying, you know what, we will give you federal funding, because we have checked out these the 64 lines at 10 different institutions around the world, and they were key derived in what President Bush said was an ethical way. In other words, these are derived from embryos. The embryos were not -- the parents weren't paid to create the embryos. These were embryos the parents were going to use to start a pregnancy, but then they decided they didn't want to, and so they were given the chance to donate them for research, and that's exactly what they did.

Now, it's very interesting what we have here on the final page of this Web article from the National Institutes of Health. It says, "We urge federally funded researchers to begin their explorations with the profound hope that we stand at the threshold of true breakthrough in our ability to treat disease and disabilities." There's no absolute that's what it will do, but that's the hope -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Elizabeth, I was doing a little bit of math right along with you, and I don't have an exact number here, but it seems to me a big chunk of those stem cell lines are outside the United States. What about access to those for U.S. researchers, and what about the quality of the lines?

COHEN: Well, yes only 20 out of the 64 from the U.S. The other 44 are outside the United States. Now the National Institutes of Health has been bringing these people in. For example, just this morning, I was at Dulles airport with Dr. Joseph Iskovitz (ph) who is at the Technion in Israel, one of these institutions, and he was asked to come here by the White House to meet with White House staff, to talk about his lines, to talk about the quality, to talk about how he derived them, to talk about how they're good -- there he is right there -- to talk about how he will share them. He's there with a colleague from the Technion, and he said they really wanted me to come here. They even offered me to give me a White House staffer who spoke Hebrew, which he doesn't need, because he speaks perfect English. But he is going to be discussing all of those issues.

Now, what the NIH has told me is that the lines that are on this list have been checked out, they've been done correctly, they've been done ethically, and they're scientifically sound.

KAGAN: Elizabeth Cohen, Washington D.C., thank you.

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