MTPR

Rocky Mountain Labs HIV Research Project Shut Down Over Fetal Tissue

Dec 10, 2018

An HIV researcher says the Trump administration has shut down an HIV research project at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton that proposed using human fetal tissue.

In September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it was auditing federal funding for research using fetal tissue and that it was ending its contract with the single company providing it to government researchers.

Kim J. Hasenkrug, National Institutes of Health senior researcher at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton.
Credit National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

"It was at that point that the boom was lowered on us," says Dr. Warner Greene of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology in San Francisco.

He partnered with a researcher at the lab in Hamilton, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Greene says his partner on the project at the Hamilton, Kim Hasenkrug, told him the federal government would not allow him to get the fetal thymus and stem cell tissue he needed to conduct the research the pair started in the spring related to finding a cure for HIV.

"This is an unfortunate confluence of current politics and science that leading us to being unable to execute key scientific experiments," Greene says.

Rocky Mountain Laboratories and Hasenkrug are considering interview requests at this time.

An NIH spokesperson told the Washington Post that when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services started its review of fetal tissue in September, it put a, “pause,” on procurement of it.

Dr. Greene says he’s concerned that the apparent prohibition on NIH labs being able to get fetal tissue for research could be expanded to other labs outside the NIH system.

"A significant number of investigators could be affected."

Greene says the tissue requested by the Hamilton lab was necessary to test an immune response to a set of antibodies to help scientists understand why HIV becomes established so quickly after an infection.