British Prime Minister Recruiting U.S. Stem Cell Research Scientists, Firms

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 30, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Prime Minister Recruiting U.S. Stem Cell Research Scientists, Firms Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 30, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be in the United States this week to recruit scientists and biotech firms to relocate to England. The move comes just two weeks after President Bush vetoed a bill that would have forced taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of days-old unborn children.

Blair will spend four days in California telling scientists that Britain is a great place for them to engage in stem cell studies because the nation supports both embryonic stem cell research and human cloning for research purposes.

Officials in the Blair administration told the BBC that Blair will also promote more cooperation between Britain and American firms that may not want to relocate.

Representatives of biotech firms including Genentech, Gilead Sciences and Cell Genesys and seven other companies plan to meet with the British leader.

"They are interested in working with us in developing the stem cell industry and we’re working towards a joint UK-California conference to be held in the U.K. in November," a Blair spokesman told the BBC.

Blair may not find many California scientists or firms willing to move to England because the state approved spending $3 billion in taxpayer funds, not including interest on loans, on the research over the next 10 years. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a $150 million loan to the state stem cell research committee after the Bush veto.

Blair also plans to meet with officials from the committee, known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

According to the London Guardian newspaper, Blair’s administration embarrassed the prime minister information it sent to British media making the announcement of the trip.

The packet of information contained comments from detractors that said the UK Stem Cell Foundation, set up last year to help bring more stem cell projects to clinical trials, "hasn’t done much since its establishment."

The comments also referred to problems the California committee has encountered, including lawsuits accusing it of breaking state open meetings and conflict of interest laws.

Britain came under fire last week over a decision by a governmental agency that is supposed to be a stem cell research watchdog. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has ruled that a British stem cell research institute can pay women for their eggs for stem cell studies.

The decision prompts concerns for bioethicists who say that paying women for eggs for research opens up a list of problems including coercion and taking advantage of poor women.

HFEA ruled that the North East England Stem Cell Institute can ask women undergoing infertility treatments if they would like to be paid for any extra eggs produced in the process.

But Josephine Quintavalle, of the British Comment on Reproductive Ethics, called the decision "lunacy."

"Vulnerable women will be put under pressure. They are extremely susceptible to coercion," she explained.

Dr. David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, also opposed the HFEA decision saying it "shows its contempt for public opinion and its general bias in favor of anything the IVF industry asks for."