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UK and USA 'team up' for stem cell research

27 October 2008
Appeared in BioNews 481

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) have signed an agreement that supports collaborations between the two countries.

Teams of scientists from the UK and California will now be able to file joint grant applications for funding into stem cell research, in an attempt to form international partnerships to amplify research. The MRC will fund the work carried out in Britain, and the CIRM will pay for work of the California team members. Similar agreements were announced in June between the CIRM and the Australian state of Victoria and Canada's Cancer Stem Cell Consortium.

In the US, a ban was put on the federal funding of research using new stem cell lines in 2001 and funding is only given if the research meets a strict set of rules. California voters, however, approved $3 billion in bonds to support stem cell research four years ago and, since the CIRM was established in 2005, the institute has approved grants worth more than $614 million for research and laboratories.

Dr Alan Trounson, president of the state stem cell institute, said that one of its goals is to 'accelerate the field of stem cell research as a whole, and in some instances we can do this more effectively through collaborations that involve the best scientific endeavours, regardless of geography'.

The UK's science minister Lord Paul Drayson said that the memorandum of understanding was a 'natural partnership' that he hopes would lead to further collaborations, for instance in the field of 'clean tech' - products or services which utilise 'clean' forms of energy production. He said 'I am interested in seeing how we can use models we have applied in one area of science and apply them to others where we have a strategic interest'.
The two agencies are planning to bring together scientists at a conference in January in the hope of inspiring collaborations between leading researchers in the field.

At the signing of the deal on Monday, Lord Drayson urged the government not to abandon investment in science and research in the financial crisis. 'Science is fundamentally vital to the wellbeing of our society, our people and our economy,' he said. 'We need to maintain investment so the great work done so far is not lost'. He also spoke to the BBC of his hopes for a shift in funding, where money might be 'redirected to biotech and stem cell therapies' as investments that might 'make sense in the future', instead of the investments in private equity and hedge funds of recent times.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
MRC and California team up for stem cell research
MLW Magazine |  23 October 2008
Science minister urges investment
BBC News Online |  21 October 2008
State, United Kingdom team for stem cell work
SFGate |  21 October 2008
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