Sept 11, 2002
By Richard Woodman
Britain is to force scientists working on embryonic stem cells to donate their cell lines to the national stem cell bank, the head of the body that regulates embryo research said on Wednesday.
Suzi Leather, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said the authority would only license such research on condition that a sample of any cell lines created is placed in the bank.
"It is not lawful in this country for embryonic stem cells to be generated without a licence from the authority," she told a stem cell conference in London which was picketted by a small group of "pro-life" students who said destroying embryos for research purposes was unacceptable.
The meeting was organised by the Medical Research Council (MRC) which earlier this week announced that the bank would be set up by the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control which expects to be storing the first cell lines within 12 months .
Leather told Reuters Health that the regulation obliging researchers to donate their cell lines to the bank was designed to ensure that the public benefited and in order to maintain public confidence. "This is absolutely critical. We don't want a repeat of what happened with genetically modified foods."
She added that the authority was "working closely with the MRC to ensure that adequate provisions are in place for overseeing the subsequent use of stem cells and that the public will benefit as directly as possible from the outcomes of this research."
The authority also planned to publish more details of the research it licenses on its Web site because it was "important that people know what embryo research is being carried out and with what intended public benefit". Leather added that a balance would have to be struck between greater public transparency and protecting the confidentiality of researchers.
MRC chief executive, Professor Sir George Radda, said the new regulation would apply only to embryonic stem cells, not adult or fetal stem cells.
He said it was clearly essential to protect the intellectual property
of bank donors and details of how best to do this would be worked out by
the MRC's technology transfer company.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd