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AAU, AAMC, and APLU Troubled By Limits on Fetal Tissue Research

Washington, D.C., June 5, 2019—The Association of American Universities, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities today released the following statement in response to an announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that it would no longer fund research within the National Institutes of Health involving the use of fetal tissue:

The  Association of American Universities, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities strongly support the full range of scientific investigation, which is why we are deeply concerned with the new restrictions on the use of fetal tissue. The limitations on intramural research at the NIH outlined in today’s announcement will obstruct research that is necessary for the development of new treatments for serious and incurable diseases that impact millions of patients, including research into treatment for HIV/AIDS.

Research involving fetal tissue has led to the development of vaccines against polio and other diseases, treatments for cystic fibrosis, and a greater understanding of birth defects and the impact of Zika and other viruses on fetal development. No suitable substitute for fetal tissue currently exists as these cells have unique and valuable properties that often cannot be replaced by other cell types. In limiting the ability of researchers to fully utilize fetal tissue, the federal government is unnecessarily impeding the scientific discovery of new therapies and vaccines that could provide hope to Americans who are suffering from various ailments and diseases and ultimately save lives.

There is a well-established, rigorous oversight and regulatory framework for fetal tissue research that has been in place for decades. In addition to our concerns over the limits imposed on intramural research, we are interested in learning more about how HHS intends to apply new levels of review to proposals for extramural funding. We look forward to working with HHS and other stakeholders to ensure researchers are able to explore all avenues of discovery.

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Founded in 1900, the Association of American Universities is composed of America’s leading research universities. AAU’s 62 research universities transform lives through education, research, and innovation. Our member universities earn the majority of competitively awarded federal funding for research that improves public health, seeks to address national challenges, and contributes significantly to our economic strength, while educating and training tomorrow’s visionary leaders and innovators. AAU member universities collectively help shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation; promote best practices in undergraduate and graduate education; and strengthen the contributions of leading research universities to American society. Follow AAU on Twitter, on Facebook , and on LinkedIn.

The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members comprise all 154 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their 173,000 faculty members, 89,000 medical students, 129,000 resident physicians, and more than 60,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences. Additional information about the AAMC and its member medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 237 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 4.9 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.2 million degrees, employ 1.2 million faculty and staff, and conduct $43.9 billion in university-based research.