No, President Trump’s Covid-19 Treatment Did Not Come from an Aborted Fetus

Brenna Lewis - 09 Oct 2020


When the media sees the opportunity to rant against Trump and pro-lifers when they can claim President Donald Trump’s Covid-19 Treatment came from aborted fetal cells, they go with it. The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) breaks it down with a statement from David Prentice, Ph.D. and Tara Sander Lee, Ph.D.

The answer is “straightforward,” according to the statement, with original emphasis, in that:

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.

Another part of the statement, with original emphasis reads:

“The Regeneron therapy given to the president was made in Velocimmune humanized mice, a novel platform that uses genetically modified mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells to generate antibodies described here and here.  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.  The final antibody pair used in the REGN-COV2 therapy cocktail was then produced in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells.  Results from Regeneron’s REGN-COV2 clinical trials to treat COVID-19 patients are reported here.

Mouse embryonic stem cells and genetic modifications to make such mice date back to 1981, have been extensively studied, and were instrumental in the discovery of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, another fully ethical alternative to fetal material, as discussed in this Nature review.  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.

“And finally, the anti-viral medicine remdesivir and the anti-inflammatory corticosteroid dexamethasone, also given to the president to treat COVID-19, are chemicals—no cells of any kind were used to produce these medicines.

Prentice and Sander Lee both have their degrees in biochemistry. Dr. Prentice established Stem Cell Research Facts, a site which claims “other stem cell types are proving to be much more useful” than embryonic stem cells.

Dr. Prentice also spoke to the Washington Post, further dismissing ethical concerns, as a fetal cell was not used in making the antibody. The article does not reference the CLI statement.

The Trump administration halted federal funding for research projects using stem cells from aborted fetuses in 2019, to the praise of many in the pro-life movement, including Students for Life’s Kristan Hawkins.

The media claim is rated as false by fact-checkers at USA Today, pointing a tweet from @LauraBray_, a clear supporter of Biden and an opponent of Trump. The ‘source’ given is a general statement from Regeneron from April. USA Today notes it’s “simply Regeneron’s official position on stem cell research in general and bears no relation to, or explanation of, how REGN-COV2 is made,” which is Regeneron’s antibody .

In rating the claim as “FALSE,” USA Today notes that “The experimental antibody therapy Trump received was not directly made from fetal or embryonic stem cells, rather antibodies obtained from SARS-CoV-2 human survivors and immunized mice engineered with a human immune system.”

An article from National Review links to a piece in the Public Discourse which writes according to Professor Frank Graham, who established the cell line, “that to the best of his knowledge, the exact origin of the HEK293 fetal cells is unclear. They could have come from either a spontaneous miscarriage or an elective abortion” and that “There are no fetal body parts or fetal tissue left. Only distinct, new cells derived from the original fetal cells remain.”

The truth comes even in many of these articles through statements from Alexandra Bowie, a Regeneron spokesperson.

The Hill writes that, “fetal tissue was not used in research for the antibody cocktail, and neither human stem cells nor human embryonic stem cells were used in development, a Regeneron spokesperson said in a statement.”

MIT Technology Review includes a statement from Bowie, in one of its last paragraphs, that “the 293T cell lines available today are not considered fetal tissue, and we did not otherwise use fetal tissue.”

Bowie told Heavy that “This particular discovery program (REGN-COV2) did not involve human stem cells or ESCs.”

Well, it’s a good thing, then that experts have provided clarity on such sensational headlines, written by Trump’s opponents.

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