Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cash Blow Hits Stem Cell Work; Scientists Turned Down for Funding

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cash Blow Hits Stem Cell Work; Scientists Turned Down for Funding

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul James Chief Reporter

CUTTING-EDGE stem cell research in the North East has been turned down for funding. The team at Newcastle's Centre for Life has so far created nearly 300 human-animal hybrid embryos, but has failed in a bid to further develop the research aimed at finding new treatments for diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Another two UK centres were last year granted licences for the research after a long debate through Parliament and in the courts. One of these has also been rejected for funding and the other has yet to make its bid.

The rejections have sparked new fears there are moral judgments behind the funding bodies' decisions - less than a year after scientists believed they had put the debate behind them.

But yesterday the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council insisted their decisions were based on financial and scientific criteria alone and said having a licence for research did not automatically mean it would be funded.

Dr Lyle Armstrong, of Newcastle University's Centre for Life, is one of the three licence holders in the UK allowed to create animal-human hybrid embryos. He has already created 278 hybrid embryos from human cells and cow eggs.

But he is now looking for new sources of cash after being denied funding. Last night Dr Armstrong said: "I am disappointed that we have been unable to secure a grant, but legislation does not guarantee that funding will follow.

"We are grateful to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for providing licence and to the Government for providing the framework for the work to be carried out. We will continue to seek sources of funding."

The other licence holder to be turned down, Professor Stephen Minger, of King's College London, said: "People reviewing grants may be looking at this from a completely different moral perspective and how much that has influenced people's perception about whether this should be funded we don't know."

Hexham MP Peter Atkinson, who supported the Bill to grant the licences last year, said: "They have a finite pot of cash and there's an awful lot of competing demands on that budget.

"But it seems a pity that they are being turned down. …

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