The Niche

UK and California agree to collaborate on stem cell research

California’s stem cell funding agency signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Kingdom, expediting collaborations between scientists in the two locations.

Robert Klein, chair of the California Institute of Stem Cell Research and Lord Paul Drayson, UK’s Minister for Science, met in the San Francisco airport to sign the four-page document.

The thrust of the agreement is that Californian and British scientists can use funds supplied by CIRM or the UK’s Medical Research Council in formal collaborations, and would be able to describe such collaborations in requests for funding. A conference to bring researchers from the two locations together is planned for January of next year.

“We could do a one-off with an investigator in Paris, but that bogs us down,” says CIRM spokesman Don Gibbons. With the memorandum, CIRM can accept applications under the same rules and avoid bureaucracy.

Drayson and Klein were full of compliments for each other at the signing. Though no scientists or projects are named specifically in the memorandum, Klein emphasized that collaborations with the UK would allow researchers in California to tap into projects that were close to clinical trials, particularly cell therapies for blindness. Drayson said that the UK’s National Health System made his country particularly able to carry out clinical trials and gather clinical data.

Drayson said that most of the research pursued under the memorandum would be academic. However, he said that the UK could particularly benefit from the United States, particularly California’s ability to commercialize research.

This is at least the third international agreement announced by CIRM. In June, the agency signed agreements with Canada and with the Australian state of Victoria. Klein says similar and more-expanded announcements are forthcoming. Along with the National Institutes of Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, CIRM is part of three American members of the 21-member International Stem Cell Forum, which organizes cross-country collaborations between its member countries.


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