Funding from private, non-profit, and public sectors will be needed for the UK to maintain its 'world leading' role in regenerative medicine, according to a recent Government strategy report.
The report commits officials to consult widely with industry and medical research charities to explore new funding options both within the UK and internationally. However, it highlights that the high cost of initial treatments 'are likely to be expensive and could challenge existing models of funding, reimbursement and commissioning'.
The report sets out ten actions the Government will take to support the sector going forward. David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, said: 'Regenerative medicine has great potential to deliver new therapies and benefit the UK economy. This report demonstrates that we retain a world leading position in this area and highlights the Government's commitment to tackling the field's strategic challenges through greater coordination and focussed support'.
Regenerative medicine is the process of creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace tissue or organ function lost due to damage, or congenital defects. A number of medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are the result of damaged tissues or organs that the body can't heal itself. By using regenerative medicine there is hope that people with these conditions can be treated.
The report assesses the state of regenerative medicine internationally and analyses the UK's strengths, weaknesses, and areas of opportunities. Despite greater funding in the field, notably in the USA, the report notes the UK's scientific breakthroughs to date and its record of strong international research cooperation. It says regenerative medicine in the UK has more unambiguous regulatory and legislative support than in the USA.
Mr Willets emphasised that the UK will seek to maintain the existing intellectual property regime that allows patenting of stem cells, in the face of a recent opinion from the European Advocate-General that risks undermining the current position across the European Union (see BioNews 601).
The authors state the report, 'provides the UK Government with a strong evidence base on the basis of which it can coordinate funding decisions, and lays the ground-work for an agreed strategy for regenerative medicine'. However, it also cautioned that the long time-scales involved in developing regenerative medicine made it difficult to attract venture capital funding, although there was some interest from the pharmaceutical industry.