China and other eastern nations are set to become world leaders in stem cell research, say scientists who took part in a study for the UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). In a report published today, the DTI describes the stem cell science taking place in China, Singapore and South Korea as 'world-leading' and says 'they are at, or approaching, the forefront of international stem cell research'.
Chinese and British scientists presented their research at a DTI conference in London today. China has already moved towards testing some stem cell treatments on patients, while other countries who are advancing stem cell research, such as the UK, are still at least a year away from patient trials.
In the UK, some scientists are worried that government funding for stem cell research could 'dry up', according to a report published in the Guardian newspaper. In 2002, the government pledged £40 million to stem cell research, over three years. Lord Sainsbury, minister for science at the DTI, said that 'Britain should be motivated to remain the leader in stem cell research by the progress in the East'. 'Providing funding for research remains at the top of our priorities', he said. Stem cell researcher Stephen Minger, from University College, London, said that the UK did not need to match the $3 billion in grants pledged by voters in California, but just needs to ensure a further commitment from the government.
According to the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), a number of 'big names' from science, industry and government have met to discuss how to increase funding for stem cell research in the UK, and thrust it once more into the limelight, particularly in the light of the upcoming general election. Sir Richard Sykes, from Imperial College, London, hosted the inaugural meeting of the 'Stem Cell Foundation' last week. Attendees included Sir Richard Branson, Sir Chris Evans and Sir Robert Winston. Before the meeting, Winston told the THES that the group would be 'looking at ways of getting good investment into an important research area', adding 'in broad terms, it is about making Britain internationally competitive'. The Foundation aims to get a 'considerable amount' of private money to develop stem cell research in the UK, but expects a substantial government investment alongside the private funds.