House of Lords written question – answered on 19th December 2011.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Lord Drayson on 5 May 2009 (WA 93-4) and by Baroness Wilcox on 16 December 2010 (WA 210), why the partnership between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Californian Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has focused on human somatic cell nuclear transfer rather than reprogramming techniques that do not require creation of embryos; to what extent Sir Ian Wilmut's reported predictions at a recent stem cell conference in La Jolla that direct reprogramming of adult cells from one type to the other will likely overtake research into the use of human embryonic stem cells reflects informed opinion at the MRC; and what are the current funding priorities for the MRC (both generally and in collaboration with CIRM) in ensuring that stem cell research leads to foreseeable therapies with minimal risk.

Photo of Baroness Wilcox Baroness Wilcox The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

In order to establish which areas of stem cell research may deliver the most effective treatments for particular conditions, the MRC's strategy is to support research on all types of stem cells to determine which routes should be pursued in the development of cell-based therapies. The MRC's partnership with the Californian Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) aims to support advances in stem cell research through international collaboration and to guide developments across the field. Further partner activities across the breadth of the regenerative medicine spectrum are currently being explored.

The MRC considers direct reprogramming an exciting development offering great promise to the field and supports two centres where this is being actively pursued. One of these is in Edinburgh, where Sir Ian Wilmut was previously the director, and another in Cambridge. The MRC makes awards in open competition according to quality and likely impact, and further grant applications in this area are anticipated in due course.

The research priorities of the Medical Research Council (MRC) are outlined in its strategic plan for 2009-2014 under two themes: (i) Resilience, repair and replacement, and (ii) Living a long and healthy life. The MRC's strategic approach in stem cell research is to give high priority to fundamental stem cell research across all types, promote translation towards clinical applications, build further capacity in stem cell research and develop joint strategies with other stakeholders.

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