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MRC defends position on stem cell research funding

13 January 2009

In response to press reports that funding for stem cell research has been refused by funding bodies, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council said:

“Stem cell science is extremely important and is funded by the MRC at higher levels than ever before.  Studies using admixed embryos hold enormous promise but all applications received by the MRC are subject to competition and rigorous peer-review. This process prevents any moral objection dominating consideration.”
“The suggestion made in the Independent that stem cell research is under threat or that funding has halted is erroneous and misleading. Stem cell research holds great promise and is receiving more funding than ever before from the Medical Research Council – over £25.5 million in 2007/08. But the MRC must make the best use of taxpayers’ money and there is no better way to decide what should be funded than to use tried-and-tested peer review systems where scientists thoroughly assess applications on their merits. This system, as operated, rules out the possibility of a personal moral view influencing the final outcome of a proposal.
‘‘Overall, the MRC supports about one in five applications. The process is extremely rigorous and all funded proposals are of an internationally competitive standard. All applicants – whether or not they are successful - receive the anonymised referees’ comments.’’
‘‘The MRC was instrumental in ensuring that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act allowed for the possibility of using admixed embryos in research. Clearly, we believe there may well be great potential for this avenue of research. Fighting for the right to carry out such research does not mean that it should get priority over other applications which score higher and hold more promise.”

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