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Court backs California stem cell programme

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A legal attempt by a coalition of Christian and other groups to block California's $3bn stem cell research programme failed yesterday when the California Supreme Court dismissed two motions opposing the voter-approved scheme.

Californians last November voted 59 per cent in favour of establishing the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine - a publicly funded centre - Reuters reports. However, the state had been unable to sell fundraising bonds after Californians for Public Accountability and Ethical Science launched two spoiling lawsuits. The first suit argued that "members of an oversight committee had conflicts of interest in deciding who should get state money for program grants and loans".

The second action claimed the oversight committee "could not hand out taxpayer money because it is not part of state government".

The court unanimously rejected both arguments, but this is unlikely to be an end to the matter. David Llewellyn, a Sacramento lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said: "It's highly likely that some form of action in a lower court will be brought."

Robert Klein, chairman of the oversight committee, responded in a statement: "We would have preferred the California Supreme Court to rule on this litigation, but the Institute will now consider its options and take prompt action." Whether this means it will now attempt to issue the fundraising bonds is unclear.

The ongoing Californian rumpus reflects strong feeling worldwide on the issue of stem cell research. The UN recently voted for an outright ban on all human cloning, although nations such as Britain say they will ignore the non-binding decision and continue with theraputic cloning. ®

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