Experts respond: Obama’s stem cell research policy shift

The British Science Media Centre rounded up comment from scientists on President Obama’s move to lift limits on embryonic stem cell research.

Sir Paul Nurse, President, Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA, said:

“Scientific research is a worldwide endeavour and it is good news for science and medicine if President Obama allows US Federal support for research into more human embryonic stem cell lines.  President Bush’s restriction of research support to only a few cell lines derived before 2001 made no sense scientifically or ethically and had meant that US researchers had to turn to philanthropic sources of funds rather than to Federal funds.  Biomedical research is strong in the UK with support coming from the Government through the MRC and the BBSRC and also from charitable sources such as the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK, so I would not expect there to be a significant brain drain from the UK with the lifting of these restrictions.”

Prof Roger Pedersen, Director, MRC Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, University of Cambridge, said:

“The forthcoming announcement by President Obama is good news for stem cell researchers funded by the US government. It means that those researchers will now be on an equal footing with stem cell scientists elsewhere to study the entire range of stem cells with potential therapeutic benefit. For the past eight years, non-US researchers (or state-funded US researchers) have had the advantage of conducting their research without political boundaries. The opening of stem cell research to all American researchers will benefit the efforts to provide cures by patients by fostering international collaborative networks that include them. It will also end the deterrent effect of the previous policies, thereby encouraging more researchers to enter the field of stem cell research, including students and scientists currently studying other areas of biology, chemistry or engineering.”