Pro-life medical experts refute claim that Trump's COVID-19 treatment made from fetal stem cells

Protesters demonstrating on behalf of the anti-abortion California Life Coalition that opposes all embryonic stem cell research outside the Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine: Commercial Implications for the Pharmaceutical and Biotech Industries meeting October 8, 2002, in San Diego, California. | David McNew/Getty Images

Pro-life medical experts have refuted claims that the antibody therapy administered to President Donald Trump as part of his COVID-19 treatment was made by using fetal stem cells.

Following his coronavirus diagnosis last week, the president was treated with an experimental antibody drug created by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. A Facebook group called “Dogs for Democracy” shared a tweet from a supporter of Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden who claimed: “So it turns out the monoclonal antibodies that Trump is on are from fetal stem cells. So Trump is being treated/saved with dead babies. Republicans? Amy Barrett? Pro-lifers? Anybody?" That post was retweeted over 107,700 times. 

As justification for the allegation that Regeneron therapy was derived from fetal stem cells, the Twitter user posted a link to Regeneron’s statement in support of stem cell research. The statement describes stem cells as one research tool that it uses to “help discover and develop new therapeutics.”

In a statement to USA Today, which conducted its own fact check about the aforementioned Twitter claim and ruled that it was false, Regeneron’s Alexandra Bowie explained: “Like many biopharma companies that conduct scientific research (see Pfizer, J&J for instance), we have a general position statement on stem cell use. We share this and other similar statements in the interest of transparency and to help educate people on the steps we take to conduct our business responsibly.”

In a statement to The Christian Post, Bowie said: “We did not use human stem cells or human embryonic stem cells in the development of REGN-COV2,” the coronavirus antibody drug. “We did use the HEK293T cell line to test our antibodies’ ability to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus (they were used to make ‘pseudovirus’ that looks like the Spike protein).”

“HEK293s are considered ‘immortalized’ cells and are a common and widespread tool in research labs. The cell line was originally derived by adenovirus transformation of human embryonic kidney cells in 1977,” she added.

“After this, it was further transformed at Stanford in the ‘80s with SV40 T-antigen (hence the “T”). HEK293T wasn’t used in any other way and fetal tissue was not used in this research.”

Dr. Tara Sander Lee, a senior fellow and director of Life Sciences at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, created a Twitter account specifically to address the controversy surrounding the COVID-19 treatments administered to the president.

Lee explained that after reviewing the public information, she and her colleague concluded: “The President was NOT given any medicines to treat COVID-19 that involved the destruction of human life.”

“NO human embryonic stem cells or human fetal tissue were used to produce the treatments President Trump received—period,” she declared. “The Regeneron therapy given to the President was made in Velocimmune humanized mice. … This is a novel platform that uses genetically modified *Mouse* Embryonic Stem Cells (ES) to generate antibodies.”

Lee continued: “Development of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail is detailed in the journal Science, describing how they identified their antibodies made from Velocimmune mice and blood from recovered patients previously infected with SARS-CoV-2. … Mouse embryonic stem cells were instrumental in the discovery of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, a fully ethical alternative to fetal material.”

She added: “ipSCs are much easier to use than human embryonic stem cells, more flexible in their uses, and are not ethically controversial. No one has ever advocated against using mouse embryonic stem cells for development of therapies — only against destruction of human lives,” she added.

“These facts reinforce the reality that *ethical* treatments (which are *not* created with the use of embryonic stem cells or harvested from aborted babies) are saving lives every day — including the President of the United States.”

In a separate Twitter thread, Lee acknowledged that “the abortion-derived cell line, HEK293, was used in experiments to test the antibodies, separate from antibody cocktail for treating.” She stressed that while “these experiments are not ethical,” “no fetal cell lines were used to make [the] antibody cocktail.”

In a statement co-authored with her colleague Dr. David Prentice at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, Lee addressed the “uninformed commentary” surrounding Trump’s coronavirus treatment. Lee stressed that as was the case with the Regeneron treatment, “no cells of any kind” were used to produce “the anti-viral medicine remdesivir and the anti-inflammatory corticosteroid dexamethasone, also given to the president to treat COVID-19.

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