Mar 22, 2002
SINGAPORE (Reuters Health)
Singapore is expected to make a final decision soon on its stand on embryonic stem cell research.
In November last year, the nation's Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC), which includes scientists, a judge, a philosophy professor and a newspaper editor, gave a tentative nod for the use of embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes provided the embryos are not older than 14 days.
Since then, the Bioethics Advisory Committee has received feedback from religious, medical and other interest groups to refine its current position before making its final recommendations to the government.
"We are considering all aspects and aim to reach a balanced view," Lim Pin, chairman of Singapore's Bioethics Advisory Committee told Reuters Health.
Many Christians, who comprise about 15% of Singapore's population, believe that life begins at conception, as do Hindus. Last year, the Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore, made up of some 300 doctors, launched a 10-day prayer vigil against embryonic stem cell research.
Muslims, making up about 15% of the population, believe life starts after four months gestation while Buddhists, accounting for some 43% of the population, are not actively involved in the debate on when life begins.
Scientists in Singapore are already involved in stem-cell research, most notably at ES Cell International, one of world's top stem-cell suppliers. ES Cell International was established in July 2000, with $17 million Singapore Dollars (US $ 9.3 million) in seed capital provided by two investment groups, Life Science Investments and ES Cell Australia Pty Ltd.
Recent news that Dr. Alan Colman will move to Singapore as ES Cell International's new chief scientific officer is seen as a major coup for the nation's growing life sciences industry.
"While no one knows what the committee will finally decide, I expect Singapore will maintain a supportive attitude to stem cell research," Dr. Colman told Reuters Health.
Dr. Colman supports rules for stem cell research, comparing it to abortion, where if it is banned, it still continues without any control. "If Singapore had no regulation of stem cell work, I would not be moving there."
Working here also gives Dr. Colman the chance to tap into a Singapore
$1 billion (approximately US $550 million) biomedicine investment fund.
Singapore has poured at least Singapore $3 billion (US $1.6 billion) into
boosting research and seeding start-ups in its fledgling life sciences
© 2002 Reuters Ltd