The Trump administration has thrown into doubt a multimillion-dollar research contract to test new treatments for HIV that relies on fetal tissue — work targeted by anti-abortion lawmakers and social conservatives aligned with the president.
The turmoil over the National Institutes of Health contract with the University of California San Francisco is part of a building battle between conservatives opposed to research using fetal tissue and scientists who say the material is vital to developing new therapies for diseases from AIDS to Parkinson’s.
The UCSF research has been instrumental in testing virtually all HIV therapies subsequently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over decades, and the NIH provides all the support for this work.
Last week, an NIH contracting official told the principal investigator at UCSF that the government was ending the seven-year contract midstream, and that the decision was coming from the “highest levels,” according to a virologist familiar with the events. Five days later, the university received a letter from the AIDS division of NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases saying the government would continue the contract for 90 days rather than the expected year-long renewal, with no word of its prospects after that, according to an individual with knowledge of the letter.