Researchers are concerned that embryo research is under threat from a proposed steep rise in the fees required to undertake such work, the Scientist magazine reports. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which licenses all work carried out on human embryos in the UK, is consulting about its proposals for a fee change until 30 June. One plan is to raise the fee for processing a research project licence from £200 to £6000, a move it claims is necessary to comply with government rules that regulation should be paid for by those being regulated. Another suggestion is for a scale of fees, ranging from £3000 to £9000.
Many scientists carrying out embryo research say that a large increase in fees will stifle research in emerging areas such as stem cell research, as well as vital work on freezing and storing human embryos. 'Much of the basic R and D (research & development) work that goes on in IVF units is funded just from within our own resources', said Alison Murdoch, head of IVF research at the University of Newcastle and chair of the British Fertility Society. She told the Scientist that giving £6000 to the HFEA might use up all the funds for a small project.
Scientists and clinicians expressed their worries over the proposed licence fee increase and other issues during the first session of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee's inquiry on the laws governing human reproductive technologies, held last week. 'It is going to stifle research in the UK', Neil McClure of Queens University Belfast told the MPs. He said that research relating to IVF and stem cells should not be regulated in the same way as work on cloning or genetic modification , where the embryo is altered.