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BioNews celebrates its 400th issue and Progress Educational Trust is revived

26 March 2007
By Professor Marcus Pembrey
Chair, Progress Educational Trust
Appeared in BioNews 400
This is the 400th BioNews, a milestone that might never have been reached. Last year Progress Educational Trust (PET) was derailed by the vagaries of small charity fund-raising, staff fell below the critical mass of four and on 22 January the trustees announced that PET's activities would cease. This came at a time when PET's reputation for information and debate on human genetics and assisted conception was as high as it had ever been, and many of us passionately felt that PET still had an important contribution to make. For example, with the current review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act there is a vital need for ongoing debate and education in this area of science - as illustrated by the need to clarify what is meant by animal-human 'hybrid' (now 'cybrid') embryos in research.

The BioNews team, a key part of PET since 1999, decided to try and keep going, with part-time editors Dr Jess Buxton and Dr Kirsty Horsey working on an entirely voluntary basis in the hope that future funding could be secured. Thank you to all those who responded to their appeal with cash or support in other ways, such as IT assistance. It was a great help. If we wanted further convincing that BioNews and PET's other activities were important at this time, your responses were just what we needed. I am pleased to announce that PET is now back on track (with funding to October so far), you can still find us in our office at 140 Gray's Inn Road, London and BioNews continues.

I took over as chair of the trustees again on 8 March and would like to thank the outgoing chair, David Whittingham, for facilitating the current restructuring and for his support for PET since its launch in 1992. Ginny Bolton also steps down having been a trustee for the full 15 years and I would like to thank her and the other trustees for their contribution to PET over the years. I was founding chair of PET and since I stepped down from trusteeship two years ago, I have remain involved as genetics advisor. I know our strengths and weaknesses only too well! There is a lot to do and we will need all the help we can get, but I am confident that we can put PET on a sound footing. I would like to thank PET director, Khadija Ibrahim and Malcolm Hodgson, our volunteer business adviser, for their steadfast commitment to PET's revival over the last few months. Many thanks also to the BioNews volunteers for helping during this difficult time.

The fundamental objective of PET is to help create an environment in which ethically sound research and practices in genetic services and assisted reproduction will thrive. The ultimate beneficiaries are families threatened by genetic disease or infertility, including parents wanting the opportunity to give birth to healthy children.  The way we endeavour to meet our objectives is to provide information, comment and debate on issues arising in our field that is both reliable and balanced. We seek to operate in the civic space between government/regulators and those directly or potentially affected by developments in the field. We thereby seek to bring timely influence to bear on policy makers as new advances and issues arise. To do this, PET plans to build on its core activities of providing information and commentaries through BioNews and running live debates that can feed into policy-making. We will need to move with the times, but one thing won't change - our events will continue to stick to the rule of having at least as much time for audience discussion as platform presentation! We also plan to extend our network of collaborations, as well as continue work with the British Society of Human Genetics and the annual Jeans for Genes appeal - to name just two.

If you support our work, there are three ways in which you can help us achieve our aims:

1. You can become a Friend of PET - see here for further details.

2. You can donate securely to at any time to BioNews using your credit or debit card here. Or, if you prefer, you can send a cheque, payable to Progress Educational Trust, to: Progress Educational Trust, 140 Gray's Inn Road, London, WC1X 8AX.

3. If your organisation is interested in sponsoring BioNews, please email Khadija Ibrahim for further details.

With your help, we hope that PET will be able to continue its activities for many years to come.

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