NIH chief breaks with Bush on stem cell research

The head of the National Institutes of Health has called on the White House to reverse its position limiting federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, calling it a shortsighted approach that has sidelined the NIH in an important field. Up until Elias Zerhouni's (photo) testimony to a Senate committee yesterday, he had been careful not to repudiate President Bush's decision to limit federal funding to a group of stem cell lines that already existed when Bush announced his policy in 2001. For the first few years, Zerhouni told lawmakers, the federal policy was harmless and allowed NIH to create an infrastructure for studies. But since 2004, he said, the U.S. has been falling behind other countries that are now taking the lead in the field.

"It's very clear these cell lines will not be sufficient to do all the research we need to do," Zerhouni told lawmakers. "It is clear today that American science will be better served and the nation will be better served if we let our scientists have access to more cell lines."

- read the UPI report on Zerhouni's testimony