NewsFri Oct 24, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST
Renowned U.K. Stem Cell Scientist Moves to France: Says U.K. Too Focused on Embryonic Research
By Tim Waggoner
NEWCASTLE, U.K., October 24, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A leading U.K. adult stem cell scientist has left his post at Newcastle University and is heading to France, alleging U.K. universities and funding agencies continually prioritize embryonic stem cell research over his work - despite the superior clinical success of adult stem cells.
Colin McGuckin, professor of regenerative medicine at Newcastle University, told Times Higher Education that he had to put his patients and staff first. "The bottom line is my vocation is to work with patients and help patients and unfortunately I can’t do that in the UK." He said France offered a "much better environment" both to "cure and treat more people" and to "do good work".
The Catholic professor’s research on umbilical cord blood and adult stem cells at Newcastle has led him to conclude that the U.K. is fixated on embryonic stem cell research to the "detriment" of adult stem cell research, and therefore is taking his research team of 10 to the University of Lyon because France sports a "much more reasoned balance" between the two stem cell branches.
"(France) is very supportive of adult stem cells because they know that these are the things that are in the clinic right now and will be more likely in the clinic," said McGuckin. "A vast amount of money in the UK from the Government has gone into embryonic stem-cell research with not one patient having being treated, to the detriment of (research into) adult stem cells, which has been severely underfunded."
"You would barely know that adult stem cells exist at Newcastle," he added.
Addressing the specific barriers he faced while employed at the north-eastern university, McGuckin mentioned he had to turn down £1.8 million in funding because of insufficient laboratory space and more notably, he said that he was forced to decline a £10 million investment towards a company he was attempting initialize because the university’s business development office "could not get it together."
Newcastle is finding it hard to keep top stem cell scientists, as McGuckin’s forerunner Miodrag Stojkovic quit his post in favor of one in Spain in 2006.
Newcastle has released a statement saying they never received a £10 million offer but did try extensively to come to an agreement with McGuckin and are currently taking measures to increase the school’s academic facilities.
McGuckin is not alone in criticizing the U.K.‘s lack of attention to adult stem cell research. Anthony Hollander, a professor of rheumatology and tissue engineering at the University of Bristol reiterated McGuckin’s concerns.
"We desperately need more funding for adult stem-cell research because with these cells we really can make a difference to patients’ lives, and we can do it now, not in ten years’ time as is promised for embryonic stem cells," said Hollander.
In related news, Last Friday, MP David Burrowes presented his Umbilical Cord Blood (Donation) Bill in second reading to the House of Commons, which if passed will, among other things, require the Secretary of State to promote the effectiveness of umbilical cord blood and encourage women to donate their babies’ after-birth umbilical cord blood.
This bill stands in stark contrast to the just passed U.K. Labour government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which legalized the creation of cloned human/animal embryos for experimentation.
McGuckin commented on these recent controversial happenings: "Cord blood has already cured around 10,000 people, but despite this much of the UK stem cell funding goes towards other types of stem cells including embryonic stem cells, which are not expected to cure people in the next 50 years. Value for public money demands that this is addressed and patients get what they need."
(To see the original Times Higher Education story: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=404027&c=1)
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Britain’s "Macabre" Embryo and Cloning Bill Passes in the Commons with Massive Majority