LONDON: Britain will double its spending on stem cell research to 100 million pounds in the next two years. Chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown said the funds will be invested in pre-commercial aspects of the research. This is in order to retain the lead the country has established in this controversial medical field.
Britain is considered as having one of the best regulatory systems in place for the research, which is expected to open up new treatment methods for serious illnesses such as diabetes, spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer’s disease.
Speaking at the Advancing Enterprise Conference, Brown said Britain should be the world’s number one centre for genetic and stem cell research, building on its world leading regulatory regime in this area. “I can today announce that we are taking forward a new public-private partnership to invest in pre-commercial aspects of stem cell research and co-ordinate future research,” he said.
The proposed government funding will help the researchers to get their work through clinical trials within the state health service, pay for cell production facilities and support a national stem cell bank, the first of its kind in the world. The funding will be largely made to the UK Stem Cell Foundation, a non-profit organisation set up by leading academic and business figures.
The government will also encourage the setting up of a government-backed consortium of pharmaceutical, healthcare and biotech companies to coordinate use of stem cells in drug discovery.
The government’s funding comes in the wake of a report by John Pattison, former R&D; director at the department of health, who headed the U.K. Stem Cell Initiative. The organisation had gone into the future of stem cell research and concluded that the country needed at least 350 million pounds to 520 million pounds investment over the next 10 years to ensure its leading position in this highly developing field. Countries like South Korea, China and Singapore have given top priority to stem cell research in their national programmes. Even in the U.S., where federal restrictions exist on stem cell work, large amounts are spent in the research.
Stem cells can be described as master cells in human body capable of developing into any type of body cells. This capability, scientists say, act as a type of repair system for the body. However, their use is controversial because these cells are developed from very early human embryos left over from fertility treatments.