Though one of its leukemia researchers won the grant, the Red Cross has refused to accept the $50,000 from the National Institutes of Health.
The rebuffed award, to Robert G. Hawley of the American Red Cross´ Holland Laboratories in Rockville, Maryland, would have been the first funding provided under President George W. Bush´s Aug. 9 decision to permit federal support for research on embryonic stem cells, which are capable of forming a variety of other tissues in the laboratory.
Research on such stem cells is ethically controversial because the embryos — tiny human lives — were destroyed in the process. Meanwhile, research on so-called adult stem cells from various sources is moving forward at a rapid pace.
Jerry Squires, vice president and chief scientific officer of the American Red Cross, said the Red Cross wasn´t reacting to the controversy over embryonic stem cells. He says the money would be returned because “we feel this grant would put us in some areas of research that wouldn´t be productive.”
Instead, he says, the Red Cross will focus its work on stem cells from umbilical cords that can be collected from maternity wards.
Squires said it was the first instance he knew of where the Red Cross had returned money to a funding agency.
Before Bush´s August decision, funding for the work had been blocked by a 1996 law forbidding federal agencies to pay for research in which human embryos are damaged or destroyed.