The Niche

Mapping stem cell research, commercialization

In a rebuttal to a statement by members of President Bush’s Council of Bioethics, statementdefended the Bush policy on human embryonic stem cell research, William Hoffman, coauthor of The Stem Cell Dilemma, counters that the U.S. has now rejoined the world’s scientific mainstream.

He writes, “The consensus view of countries that have deliberated and established policy is that research on stem cell lines derived from human embryos donated by fertility clinics with consent of the donors is legal and can be funded with public money.”

For the past seveal years, Hoffman has maintained color-coded maps tracking countries’ stem cell policies. In his commentary, he recounts:

“By 2007 34 countries representing some 3.5 billion people – more than half the earth’s population – had policies that permitted public funds to be spent for stem cell research using embryos donated by fertility clinics with consent of the donors. The United States was not among them. Today it is on its way.”

Hoffman’s commentary is posted on the Bioethics Forum of the Hasting’s Center, which also posted the original statement and another opposing commentary by bioethicist Insoo Hyun.

Even as the amount of research grows, it’s worth noting that a friendlier research environment may not translate into a friendlier business environment. Though the work is tightly regulated and requires researchers to obtain national licenses, the UK is one of the more permissive countries for human embryonic stem cell research. However, researchers at the University of Nottingham have studied the commercialization of stem-cell therapy in the UK and found that the resources to turn research into products are likely insufficient.

As noted in the press release: “the industry is dominated by small, young companies lacking the resources to bring products easily and successfully to market and those that do struggle to make sales.”

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