Thursday, June 01, 2006

US Congresspeople say US lags Britain in stem cell research

Reuters: The United States is lagging behind Britain and other leading nations on stem cell research, a visiting U.S. Congressional delegation said on June 1, 2006.

The United [States] has restricted federal funding of stem cell research which Colorado Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette said has forced some American scientists to relocate to countries which have more lenient policies.

"In addition, leadership in this area of research has shifted to the United Kingdom, which sees this scientific area as a cornerstone of its biotech industry," she said in a statement. [IPBiz: it's always what one doesn't say that's important. One notes that the lead author (M. Stojkovic) of "Derivation of a human blastocyst after heterologous nuclear transfer to donated oocytes" [currently the only paper on successful SCNT on humans] stated of the situation in England: Funding is so scarce and competition so fierce that a grant application can be sabotaged by an unsympathetic "referee" from a rival group. Thereafter, Stojkovic left England for Spain.]

DeGette and other members of the bipartisan Congressional delegation are holding meetings in Britain with government officials, agencies and scientists about advances in stem cell research, as well as ethical and regulatory issues.

Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin said the visit has opened his eyes about the innovations that are occurring in Britain.

"Unfortunately, this trip is also serving as a reminder of how much the scientific community in the United States is missing out on research and investment opportunities," he said.

DeGette and Delaware Republican Rep. Michael Castle, who is also part of the delegation, introduced a bill to expand federal funding of stem cell research on human embryos that would otherwise be discarded.

***Further commentary from IPBiz

Back in March 2006, IPBiz discussed certain issues with credit in the case of the research on Dolly the sheep.

Keith Campbell, who even according to Ian Wilmut did more of the work, left the Roslin Institute in 1997. The Scientist reports: According to the Guardian, Campbell left the Roslin institute in 1997, in part due to the way Wilmut handled the Dolly project. Campbell is apparently now at the University of Nottingham's Division of Animal Physiology. Angelika Schnieke, who was the second author of the published study on Dolly, now is chair of Livestock Biotechnology at Technical University of Munich. Wilmut left the Roslin Institute in 2005 to head the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Thus, the Dolly team has been scattered.

The Scientist says of Miodrag Stojkovic, now deputy director of Principe Felipe Centro de Investigacion in Valencia, Spain, said Wilmut took too much credit and should not have been first author. "Yes, this is common practice in scientific publishing," he told The Scientist. "But, in my opinion, it is not fair practice." Stojkovic created the UK's first cloned human embryo while working at Newcastle University, but left earlier this year for Spain in part because he felt a colleague took too much credit for his team's work.

***from the San Francisco Chronicle (May 22, 2006) re: Ortiz' bill 401

Far better would be for Ortiz and CIRM to work out their differences -- which, from where we sit, don't look too daunting -- outside of legislation. Ortiz is reasonable and flexible -- last week she agreed not to push SB401 for the November ballot. In recent months, CIRM has made an exemplary effort in trying to balance the concerns of industry, taxpayers and scientists as it proposed high governing standards. Ortiz's move allows not just her, but also a host of other interests, a tremendous opportunity to engage CIRM as it firms up a set of guidelines that take into account what's best for everyone in California.

The key will be to lock in these regulations so that promises of transparency and checks against conflicts of interest are not dependent on the whims of whoever happens to be in charge of the stem-cell program at any given moment.

***from the LA Weekly News:

Not that the “stalling tactics” are stopping stem-cell researchers from staking their claims. Several weeks before the [Alameda County Proposition 71] case came close to finishing, the Massachusetts-based biotech heavyweight Advanced Cell Technology opened a 10,000-square-foot stem-cell research lab in Alameda specifically to take advantage of what the company is certain are soon-to-be-unshackled Prop. 71 dollars. How soon is another question. The legal proceedings concluded last week, with written closing arguments due any day now. Pretty much all observers agree that the opposition’s case is bound to fail. Unfortunately, that won’t stop an appeals process that could take as long as 15 months (though the Supreme Court may choose not to hear the case, which could shorten this time frame).

Meanwhile, there are roughly 150,000 cancer-related deaths in California each year. Cancer is one of those diseases scientists believe stem cells will someday cure. Since the state of California cannot issue bonds with litigation pending, another 200,000 people will die from cancer alone while this suit works its way through the legal system. Ironic, when you consider that it is primarily pro-life advocacy groups backing the suit.

[IPBiz post 1621]


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