Adult Stem Cells and Life Sciences

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 15th September 2015.

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Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Conservative, Enfield, Southgate 7:00 pm, 15th September 2015

My hon. Friend will know that I was very much making that case in 2008 in the debates that we had on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Strong lobbying went on in relation to therapeutic treatments. I remember being in Central Lobby when many charities said that we had to pass that measure to provide immediate treatments. I do not want to get too involved in that debate today, beyond saying that adult stem cell transplantation is saving lives now, and has potential for the future. We need to have a really good mutual circle of which everyone can be part. Such a circle must lend itself to looking at the big ask of the Government today, which is a national stem cell transplantation trials network to ensure that we save more and more lives. We also need to look at future therapies as well.

I urge the Minister, as he steps up to the Dispatch Box, to show his support for a national stem cell transplantation trials network. This will not only provide a turbo boost for improving patient outcomes and make the UK a world leader in stem cell transplantation, but also support the economy by growing the life sciences industry, and I know how seriously the Minister takes that.

The UK Stem Cell Strategic Forum, which was established at the request of the Minister of State for public health in 2010, stressed the need for further research into stem cell transplantation in 2014, and that included the recommendation that the network be established. Furthermore, the all-party group on stem cell transplantation has called for a clinical trials network a number of times over the past few years. Last year, the all-party group heard from experts in the field who pointed out some of the barriers to research into stem cell transplantation in the UK. They identified inadequate research infrastructure and inefficient data collection. Currently, the small number of patient cohorts and the complex regulatory environment—I ask the Minister to look at that aspect as well—mean that fewer than 5% of stem cell transplant patients are recruited into prospective clinical trials of any kind. Also, data collection at transplant centres is inefficient due to inadequate staff training. The poor quality of the data means that they are unsuitable for research purposes, which significantly undermines the potential to achieving good outcomes in transplantations.

The infrastructure is ready to provide support for a national network, which would allow for the rapid recruitment of participants, standardise procedure and provide a central data hub to manage and evaluate research and share information which could be used to improve patient outcomes.