STAT, December 12, 2018
Ike Swetlitz

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WASHINGTON — The National Institutes of Health freeze on fetal tissue procurement is threatening to hamper work at an agency lab conducting cancer research, the latest sign that a Trump administration decision could slow the efforts of some scientists who depend on the samples.

“If they don’t procure new fetal tissue by, say, end of January, [there] will be an impact,” an NIH spokeswoman said, adding that the agency was taking unspecified steps in an effort to make sure research did not have to be paused.

The spokeswoman, Renate Myles, declined to identify the lab for “security reasons,” but said that the group is working on cancer immunotherapy. Two other NIH labs, one in Montana and another at the National Eye Institute, are also conducting research using fetal tissue that could ultimately be affected by the suspension.

NIH is also working with its overseers at the Department of Health and Human Services to see how the researchers can get the tissue amid the agency-wide pause on new orders, Myles said.

“We’re working with HHS to see how we can procure the tissue,” she said.

The Trump administration is in the midst of a wide-ranging audit into research involving human fetal tissue. As part of that review, the NIH asked staff scientists to “pause” purchases of fetal tissue beginning in September, as Science first reported. [...]

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