PARIS (Reuters Health) May 24 - French ministers will soon reach a decision on whether France will be able to import stocks of embryonic stem cells, Fran ois Loos, the new minister of higher education and research, said on Thursday.
He said that he was going to meet with an ad hoc committee of experts, before coming to a conclusion "very soon" about the authorisation to import stocks of embryonic stem cells.
The preceding minister for research, Roger-Gerard Schwartzenberg, authorised the importation of two lines of embryonic stem cells at the beginning of May. It now rests with the new minister to confirm or withdraw this authorisation.
"Before making my decision, I must engage in a dialogue. I will meet the committee of experts in charge of this question, before pronouncing the decision shortly," Loos told Reuters Health on Thursday.
Currently, French researchers are not authorised to work on embryonic stem cells, but the law on biological ethics, which had its first reading in January with the French National Assembly, allows research on supernumerary embryos.
While waiting for the law to become active at the end of 2003, Schwartzenberg wanted to allow French researchers to work on these cells, after having formed and consulted a "committee of experts," composed of 5 specialists in embryology and ethics.
They are Nicole Douarin, secretary of the Academy of Science, Anne Faggot-Largeault, professor of ethics at the College of France, Brigitte Lemintier, professor with the Faculty of Law of Rennes, Claude Sureau, honorary president of the Academy of Medicine, and Charles Thibault of the Academy of Science.
In addition, Loos wants to open up the field of research, he announced in a press conference on Thursday. Together with Luc Ferry, the minister for youth, education and research, he presented his objectives and projects. Most of his remarks related to higher education and the role of universities.
Saying that "France is losing its role and its fight" in research, the deputy minister wants to place the country "level with the best" by "opening up research."
"It is necessary to encourage the participation of researchers to draw benefit from their research, to facilitate patents applications and to allow researchers to move within their careers without being penalised," Loos stressed.
He also said he wants to open "a close dialogue" with professionals
in teaching and research to tackle "the vocational crisis" in science and
"put a stop to the brain drain."
© 2002 Reuters Ltd