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Stem cell firms jump on Obama policy plans

By MATTHEW PERRONE

WASHINGTON (AP) ¿ Shares of companies developing stem cell therapies surged Friday evening on word that President Obama on Monday is expected to overturn restrictions that have choked funding for academic stem cell research.

President Obama pledged on the campaign trail to overturn the 2001 policy, which bans government funds for research that involves harvesting new embryonic stem cells. President George W. Bush, who set the policy, said the process is immoral because it destroys human embryos.

Industry executives have awaited an executive order from Obama to restore federal funding for the research. But some speculated the withdrawal of former Sen. Tom Daschle for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services stalled the administration's plans.

A senior administration official said Friday the president will hold an event Monday at the White House to announce the move. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the policy had not yet been publicly announced Friday.

"This is a very strong and powerful signal that we have a very user-friendly administration for stem cell research, and that will be hugely important going forward," said Richard Garr, president and CEO of Neuralstem Inc, a company working to develop a stem cell therapy for Lou Gehrig's disease.

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