More MS news articles for July 2001

US Stem Cell Researcher Defects to Britain

LONDON (Reuters Health) Jul 16 - A leading US stem cell scientist has defected from California to Great Britain in a reverse "brain drain" that highlights a transatlantic gulf over the controversial area of medical research.

Dr. Roger Pedersen, from the University of California, San Francisco, will take up a lecturing post in the department of surgery at the University of Cambridge in September, according to a Monday announcement by the University of Cambridge.

"We anticipate that he will play a significant academic role and participate in bringing stem cells into use for the treatment of human diseases," a spokeswoman said.

Britain earlier this year became the first country in the world to explicitly legalise cloning of human embryos for stem cell and other research purposes. The US, by contrast, prohibits federal funding of research in which a human embryo would be destroyed or placed at risk. President Bush is due to decide shortly whether to tighten restrictions on federally funded research.

British academics and biotechnology entrepreneurs said Dr. Pederson's move to Cambridge where the original work on deriving embryonic stem cells from mice was done showed how research could move from the US if obstacles became too great.

"If the climate continues to deteriorate in the US and remains stable in the UK, there may be several more high-profile defections which will put the UK in a very competitive position," said Martin Edwards, chief executive of Europe's first listed stem-cell company, ReNeuron Holdings Plc.

At the moment, US scientists and corporations dominate the emerging field. But US researchers are worried a tougher government stance could undermine that lead, since many projects even if they are mainly privately funded rely on some federal money.

Meanwhile, other groups in Israel, Australia and Britain are chasing hard, according to Dr. Richard Gardner of the University of Oxford, who chairs the British Royal Society's working group on therapeutic cloning.

"The UK is going to be a more secure environment in which to conduct most areas of embryo research. I've had calls from four US companies wanting advice on how they might go about conducting research here," said Simon Best, chief executive of Ardana Biosciences in Edinburgh.

"There is quite a serious look by both the academic and business community in the States into whether to conduct further research on this side of the Atlantic," Best added.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd.