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8-Humans: Controversial Australian researcher quits stem-cell centre

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TITLE:  Trounson quits stem-cell centre
SOURCE: The Courier-Mail, Australia, by Dennis Shanahan
DATE:   Aug 5, 2003

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Trounson quits stem-cell centre

THE future of Australia's stem-cell research is under a cloud after the
resignation of controversial medical researcher Alan Trounson from the
National Stem Cell Centre last night.

The centre, based in Melbourne and established only late last year, had
been divided over where grants for research would be allocated, and
subjected to stringent regulations to avoid conflicts of interest by
scientists developing commercial cures.

The Federal Government had already suspended payments to the centre this
year, and warned that internal disputes over funding would have to be solved.

Government officials warned that a deadline would apply to the solving of
disputes and that funding could be cut completely.

There were divisions between the various universities and research
centres competing for the taxpayer-funded grants for research.

It is understood federal funds were recently restored to the centre.

Professor Trounson, through his wife, confirmed to The Australian last
night that he was no longer the chief executive officer of the National
Stem Cell Centre.

Professor Trounson was the leading campaigner for the establishment of
such a centre for stem-cell research, including embryonic stem-cell
research, and its founding chief executive officer.

Professor Trounson also successfully lobbied federal MPs to pass special
legislation to enable excess embryos from IVF programs to be used for
experiments in developing stem-cell treatments for diseases and neural

The Federal Government gave almost $50 million to the centre to kickstart
embryonic stem-cell work in Australia.

It was backed particularly by the premiers of Queensland, NSW and
Victoria to promote scientific investments.

Professor Trounson's flamboyant style and preparedness to campaign
publicly for stem-cell research in parliament and the media drew
criticism from some in the scientific world.

He was also criticised during his campaign to have the laws passed to
allow embryos for research for misleading MPs over stem-cell research.

During one promotion of his argument in Canberra, Professor Trounson
showed MPs a video of a rat he claimed had been cured of paralysis using
embryonic stem cells when in fact it had been given movement through -
older - germ cells.

He also claimed some evidence he cited had been scientifically approved
for publication when it had not.

Professor Trounson was forced to divest himself of hundreds of thousands
of shares he had in stem-cell development companies because of potential
conflicts of interest. 


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