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Stem-cell suit to be argued in Oct.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A state judge will decide in October on a lawsuit seeking to block $21 million from going to the Life Sciences Research Board.

Stem-cell research critics want a temporary order preventing the money transfer while the Life Sciences Research Board is asking that the lawsuit be tossed out. A Cole County Judge last month denied a request for a temporary injunction blocking any state money from going to the board for 15 days.

The research board has said it is processing requests for research grants and doesn't plan to distribute money until early next year.

Oct. 20 was set as the next hearing date in the case.

Missouri Roundtable for Life, represented by the governor's former chief of staff, sued in June to block money from going to the state's Life Sciences Research Board because of fears that the funds eventually could be used to support embryonic stem-cell research.

Voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment that guarantees federally-allowed stem-cell research is also legal in Missouri. It also bars lawmakers from docking an entity's budget because it conducts embryonic stem-cell research.

Ed Martin, an attorney representing Missouri Roundtable for Life, said the 2006 constitutional amendment makes existing limits on what kinds of research can be supported by the life-sciences board unclear. Martin said that under the constitutional amendment, any entity receiving a research grant also could be entitled to at least that sum every year.

The $21 million at issue comes from the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund and goes to the Life Sciences Research Board. The trust fund was created in 2003 to spend one-quarter of Missouri's annual tobacco settlement proceeds. The law creating the fund also bars spending money for abortion services and human cloning.

Lawmakers this year also included even more restrictions on using life-sciences money in the state budget that took effect last month. That appropriation specifies that the money can be used "exclusively on animal science, plant science, medical devices, biomaterials and composite research, diagnostics, nanotechnology related to drug development and delivery, clinical imaging and information technology related to human health."

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