LOS ANGELES - The foundation started by former Superman star Christopher Reeve has applauded President Barack Obama’s new stem cell policy saying it ‘harnessed the power of the federal government to move research forward’ toward possible new therapies.

Obama Monday reversed an eight-year-long government block on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, a promising but controversial science, and rejected what he called a ‘false choice’ between science and morals.

Obama signed an executive order that overturned former president George W. Bush’s policy limiting research on the cells, which was put in place during his first year in office back in 2001. Fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise, Obama said his administration would ‘vigorously support’ scientists who pursue stem cell research.

The reversal of Bush’s strict restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research also got a standing ovation elsewhere in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Times reported.

‘For those of us who’ve worked in this area, this is an extraordinarily happy day,’ former Paramount head Sherry Lansing said of Obama’s decision. ‘This will lead to huge advances in fighting diseases like cancer and diabetes.’

Reeve, the star of four Superman movies, became a prominent advocate for stem cell research and other paralysis treatments after he was paralysed from the neck down in a 1995 horsing accident. Other Hollywood figures have also strongly supported stem cell research, including actor Michael J. Fox, who contracted Parkinson’s disease in 1991.

Obama honoured Reeve when he lifted the ban on federal funds for stem cell research Monday, saying that the nation owes a debt of gratitude to people like Reeve who ‘organised, and raised awareness, and kept on fighting - even when it was too late for them, or for the people they love’.