Just prior to offering the floor to Harold Varmus for the first Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education subcommittee hearing in more than two months, and just after exchanging pleasantries with the National Institutes of Health director, subcommittee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) asked Varmus jokingly, "Did you like the $2 billion we gave you?" A smiling Varmus answered in the affirmative; onlookers chuckled.

"It's my belief that stem cells do not fall under the ban on embryo research."

--Sen. Tom Harkin

As of now, however, none of that recent $2 billion NIH funding increase (to a total budget of $15.64 billion) can be put toward research that involves the creation of human embryos for research purposes--so dictates the president's 1994 directive. But if the tone of the Dec. 2 hearing on the ethical and scientific implications of stem cells is any indication of what's to come, NIH scientists...

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