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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C., is vigorously contesting a report, published by The Washington Post, that it has decided to cancel a $2-million-a-year contract that funds work using human fetal tissue to develop mice with humanlike immune systems for testing drugs against HIV.

HHS officials insist they have made no decision on the contract, and say they are still in the process of completing a previously announced review of all federally funded research that uses human fetal tissue derived from elective abortions. But the report comes as antiabortion groups have stepped up their long-standing efforts to end federal funding for research using human fetal tissue, which is legal under a 1993 law. And the battle over the contract is being followed closely by other researchers who rely on fetal tissue in their work.

In the online story posted yesterday, the Post reported that an official at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), part of HHS, had told researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), that the agency would be canceling a 7-year contract awarded in 2013 that funds the humanized mouse work, and that “the decision was coming from the ‘highest levels,’ according to a virologist familiar with the events.” The Post story appeared 2 days after a columnist for CNS News, a politically conservative outlet, published a news story pointedly probing NIHs plans for the UCSF contract, and the same day, The Hill newspaper ran an opinion piece by Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life in Washington, D.C., demanding that the contract be canceled.

Today, Caitlin Oakley, an HHS spokesperson, issued a statement challenging the Post’s reporting. It reads in part:

[T]he Washington Post chose to publish a story based on anonymous sources providing inaccurate information by telephone with no traceable records despite the fact that HHS provided multiple, on-the-record assurances … that the claims by the anonymous source were incorrect. … No contracting official would have had the authority to impart any communication to UCSF that the contract was being cancelled because no decision has been made.

…continue reading ‘Report That NIH Will Cancel Fetal Tissue Research Contract Fuels Controversy’

Image TIM EVANSON/FLICKR (CC BY-SA)

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