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Italian researchers sue over human embryonic stem cells - The chronology

07/23/2009

July 2008: the Ministry of Health nominated a committee of experts to define the issues on stem cell research to be included in its 2008 funding application criteria. 26th February 2009: the Italian Conferenza Stato Regioni [= Assembly for regional affairs] signed the document for the Ministry of Health’s upcoming stem cell research funding. Approved by the assembly and signed by the Deputy Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio, the text included a clause excluding the opportunity to fund research on human embryonic stem cells. 24th April 2009: Elena Cattaneo (University of Milan), Elisabetta Cerbai (University of Florence) and Silvia Garagna (University of Pavia) sued the government’s decision to the aprioristic exclusion of human embryonic stem cells from funding. 2nd July 2009: Nature reports on the lawsuit by the three researchers. Giulio Cossu, who was on the committee behind the funding text, argued that he had agreed to be on the committee only after assurances that all stem cell research would be allowed. 16th July 2009: the Regional Administrative Tribunal of Latium rejected the motion to suspend the funding announcement “according to the legal framework given by Italian Law 40 of 2004, which limits specifically human embryo experiments (...) and considering that the appellants are neither institutional beneficiaries nor external bodies connected to the former by specific agreement�?. 20th July 2009 (deadline of stem cell funding call for proposals): Elena Cattaneo, Elisabetta Cerbai and Silvia Garagna are excluded from applying for the funds as their projects include human embryo stem cell research. 21st -22nd July 2009: Elena Cattaneo and Elisabetta Cerbai give a statement on Science and Nature regarding their decision to appeal through the Council of State. December 2009: Last december 2009, the second Court (State Council) questioned again the legitimacy of their appeal on the grounds it was “defective of [the demonstration that] a research proposal [on hES cells] was prepared and submitted�?. But the call excluded such a submission. Neverthless, one of the three appellants had prepared and submitted by the deadline. This Court also said it is the content of the call itself that defines what can be funded. But the three scientists contend that the minister that opens such calls has no rights (and no competence) to exclude a type of research that is (legal and) pertinent to the field identified by the Government as “strategically relevant and to be financed�?. February 2010: Nature published another letter by the three scientists.

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