The European Commission today announced it will not introduce legislative proposals to restrict funding for research involving stem cells.
We welcome this decision.
The Commission was required to consider the idea, following a European ‘One of Us’ Citizens’ Initiative that sought to ban all financing of activities that presuppose the destruction of human embryos, including stem cell research, within the European Union.
The Biochemical Society was one of more than 80 organisations to sign a Wellcome Trust statement against any such ban.
We signed the statement because we believe that stem cell research continues to be one of the most promising fields of biomedical research and offers the opportunity to greatly improve the health of European citizens. The funding ban proposed would have had a negative impact on research involving human embryos for regenerative medicine, reproductive health and genetic disease.
In its response, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, voiced a similar view: “Member States and the European Parliament agreed to continue funding research in this area for a reason. Embryonic stem cells are unique and offer the potential for life-saving treatments, with clinical trials already underway.”
Our Society recognises that stem cell research can be a controversial area of science. However, the issue has already experienced a robust debate, and the current framework for funding stem cell research, as part of Horizon 2020, was approved in just December last year. This framework allows ground-breaking and important research using all forms of stem cells, subject to it meeting fundamental ethical principles.
The Commission iterated that it would “continue to apply the strict ethical rules and restrictions in place for EU-funded research, including that we will not fund the destruction of embryos”.
Today’s decision is a good decision for science and health. We would like to thank the Wellcome Trust for driving a unified response from scientific bodies, patient groups and industry representatives across Europe. Their excellent work ensured a strong case was made to the Commission for keeping the status quo.
For further information, read:
- A Press release from the European Commission announcing its decision
- The full European Commission’s response [PDF]
- The Wellcome Trust original statement [PDF]
- The Wellcome Trust’s background document on stem cell research [PDF]
If you want to know more about stems cells and research, visit our Sciberbrain website. There we lay out the issues and opinions on stem cell research (along with other scientific issues) to help you make an informed decision.