President Obama moved quickly to reverse the Bush Presidential statement of August 9, 2001, and the Executive Order signed by former President Bush on June 20, 2007, that limited federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. Prior to the President's Executive Order issued on March 9, 2009, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) only could fund human embryonic stem cell research on cell lines created before August 9, 2001. The issuance of the Executive Order is part of the President's initiative to increase scientific integrity in the administration's involvement with science and technology.

The Executive Order calls for the Director of NIH to establish guidelines for the "support and conduct of responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law." The Director of NIH is instructed to review existing NIH and other widely recognized guidelines and to issue new guidelines within 120 days of the issuance of the Executive Order. The economic stimulus package granted the NIH $10 billion, a portion of which now could fund stem cell research. See the February 19, 2009, issue of the Health Law Update.

The Executive Order presents an opportunity for increased oversight, regulation and legislation concerning human stem cell research and almost certainly will lead to a congressional overhaul of existing federal policy.