Stem cell research gets £50m boost

A further £50 million will be made available for stem cell research into illnesses for which there is currently no cure, the government announced today.

It doubles the funding made available over the next two years to £100 million, and will go towards supporting research facilities, the UK stem cell bank, cell production facilities and clinical research in the NHS.

The additional investment aims to ensure Britain keeps its pre-eminent position in the controversial research, which proponents say has the potential to provide treatments for conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Britain should be the world’s number one centre for genetic and stem cell research building on our world-leading regulatory regime in this area,” chancellor Gordon Brown said.

“I can today announce we are taking forward a new public-private partnership to invest in pre-commercial aspects of stem cell research and to co-ordinate future research.”

The announcement comes in response to findings published today by the UK Stem Cell Initiative (UKSCI), which was set up earlier this year by the government to formulate a ten-year blueprint for research priorities.

Head of the initiative John Pattison, the Department of Health’s research and development director, warned that a huge cash injection was needed to maintain Britain’s edge in what is an increasingly competitive area.

The government today said it accepts the report, and has pledged to not only support existing research but also work towards setting up a public-private consortium to use stem cells to develop new drugs.

In addition, ministers have agreed to continue to ensure regulation of stem cell research is “flexible and appropriate” – something scientists insist is vital to keeping Britain at the forefront of its field.

Some of the extra funding will also go to support the UK Stem Cell Foundation, which was set up by leading academics and businessmen earlier this year.

“The government is extremely grateful to John Pattison and the members of the UK Stem Cell Initiative for providing such a thorough and considered report on the future of stem cell research and application in the UK,” added health minister Jane Kennedy.

“This report provides a clear vision for maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader in basic research, and provides a pathway to translate this research into new therapies to benefit patients.

“It is important we continue our long-term commitment to stem cells. They have the potential to help millions of people and could lead to new treatments for serious diseases for which there is currently no cure.”