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Vatican cancels stem cell research conference

2 April 2012
Appeared in BioNews 651

The Vatican has cancelled a stem cell research conference scheduled to take place next month, citing a lack of participants.

Vatican spokesman Reverend Ciro Benedettini blamed 'organisational, logistical and economic factors' for the cancellation of the Third International Congress on Responsible Stem Cell Research conference.

The focus was to be on clinical applications of adult and reprogrammed stem cells, but experts in human embryonic stem cell therapy were also booked to speak. The Catholic church deems embryonic stem cell research unethical, and so these speakers had, according to Forbes, agreed to discuss only their work involving adult stem cells.

The conference, planned for 25 - 28 April and organised by the Pontifical Academy for Life, an arm of the Catholic Church dedicated to promoting the church's pro-life ethic and researching bioethics, would have been attended by the Pope.

A memo on the event's website said: 'Unfortunately, the scarce number of sponsors and registrations would have adversely affected the positive outcome of the meetings, and therefore this prompted the organisers to take the necessary steps to cancel the conference'.

The President of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Alan Trounson, who was invited to speak at the conference called the cancellation a disappointment as 'it offered the opportunity for a constructive dialogue on all types of stem cell research'.

However, not everyone was disappointed, with other European scientists welcoming the cancellation, as they felt the conference might have had presented stem cell research in a negative light.

An unnamed source in the Academy told the Catholic News Agency they were 'infinitely relieved the Church has avoided a major blunder which would have confused the faithful for decades to come'.

He added: 'The Holy Spirit has certainly shown to be present through those faithful members who drew attention to the ambiguity of the choice of speakers. I hope and pray that a review will be affected of the basis on which these congresses are planned'.

Canceled Stem Cell Conference is Another Black Eye for the Vatican
Forbes |  26 March 2012
Vatican calls off stem-cell conference
Nature News |  26 March 2012
Vatican stem cell conference cancelled partly over keynote speaker George Daley from Boston |  27 March 2012
Vatican, which opposes embryo research, cancels stem cell forum due to scarce participation
Washington Post |  26 March 2012
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