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6-Regulation: Australia and California go for embroynic stem cellresearch

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Stem cell permission
SOURCE: AAP/, Australia
DATE:   May 16, 2003

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Stem cell permission

AUSTRALIAN researchers can begin applying for permission to use human
embryos from today. Federal legislation passed last year allows embryonic
stem cell research, but has imposed a three-year moratorium on
therapeutic cloning. The Minister responsible for Human Cloning, Kevin
Andrews, today said a nine-member committee has begun assessing
submissions from today. It was established by the Research Involving
Human Embryos Act 2002. Mr Andrews said the chair of the committee would
be Professor John (Jock) Findlay, a Victorian expert in human
reproductive medicine and chair of the World Health Organisation's
Advisory Committee on Human Reproduction. Such a committee had never
before been established in Australia, Mr Andrews said. "It will consider
applications for a licence to use excess human embryos for research and
refuse or grant licences, subject to conditions," he said. "The committee
will monitor compliance with the legislation by appointing inspectors and
taking necessary enforcement action, such as cancelling or suspending
licences." Mr Andrews said the committee would report to the federal
parliament on the operation of the legislation and the licences issued.
The National Health and Medical Research Council received $6.6 million in
this week's federal budget to implement the requirements of the acts.
Committee members were appointed following consultation with state and
territory ministers.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Biotech industry edges closer to stem-cell research
SOURCE: San Francisco Business Times, USA, by Daniel S. Levine
DATE:   May 9, 2003

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Biotech industry edges closer to stem-cell research

While Congress considers legislation that would impose a 10-year prison
sentence and a $1 million fine for anybody caught cloning human embryos,
California is considering legislation that could allow the state to
become a haven for embryonic stem cell research.

Last fall, California passed legislation meant to make a policy statement
about the state's support of embryonic stem cell research. Now lawmakers
are deciding whether it will back those words with the money and
mechanism to do it.

"The desire to establish state funds for stem cell research, especially
for the kinds that are permitted in California, but certainly not funded
by the U.S. government or any of its agencies, is important and may be
the only way to get this research going," said Irv Weissman, professor at
Stanford Medical School and director of the Stanford Institute for
Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine.

The Bush administration already restricted federal funding for human
embryonic stem cell research to certain cell lines already in use. The
threat of additional prohibitions, including criminalization of the
research, has steered researchers away from the work and sent others
overseas to conduct work in more welcoming settings.

"Whether it's how disease works or the origins of disease, it's part of
this same freedom of research that this country has traditionally
funded," said state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento, who has introduced
a set of bills to promote stem cell research in California. "Here we are
not only not supporting it on a federal level, but also proposing to
criminalize it. It's such an odd ideological position that drives such
important policy."

The Roman Catholic Church and anti-abortion groups oppose human embryonic
stem cell research because to extract the cells requires the destruction
of an embryo, which some see as tantamount to murder.

But researchers believe work with embryonic stem cells, which can develop
into virtually any specialized cell within the body, could lead to
treatments for a broad range of health problems ranging from spinal
injuries to diabetes as well as provide an understanding for the
mechanism of genetic-based diseases. If passed, the legislation could
help establish the Bay Area as a leading center for stem cell research
and commercialization of it.

"This is a very exciting area with tremendous potential. What California
is trying to do in these bills is really leading the nation in this
area," said Sandra Fried, a legislative director for the University of
California. "California is at the forefront." Guidelines and funding

The Ortiz bills passed the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services
last month and are pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

One bill, SB 778, would create a mechanism for funding facilities and
research for stem cells through general obligation bonds. No amount has
been attached to the legislation yet, but capitol staffers say funding
could add up to $1 billion over a 10-year period. The funding would be
available to private and public sector researchers.

Companion bill SB 332 would establish a research council that would
develop guidelines for stem cell research in the state, and SB 771 would
establish a state-level embryo registry for stem cell research.

Supporters of the bills include research institutes and life science
industry organizations. Opponents, which include California Pro-Life
Council, California Catholic Conference and the Campaign for California
Families, said they don't oppose the use of adult stem cells, but said
the use of human embryonic stems cells is a case of the ends not
justifying the means.

"Pro-life people and their families suffer from the same diseases and
complications of life as everyone else. We have disabled members. We have
children and family members with diabetes and Parkinson's and
Alzheimer's," said Jan Carroll, legislative analyst for the California
Pro-Life Council. "We simply have a sense of horror that we would be
attempting to cure these people by killing another human being in order
to derive what they think they need to do that." Challenge ahead

The bond measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass. If successful,
it would then have to muster a two-thirds majority in a statewide
election before it could be implemented.

"Clearly moving the bond bill through the Senate, let alone both houses
is going to be a challenge because of the politics of stem cell
research," said Ortiz. "Additionally, with California's financial
situation, new indebtedness can be a challenge as well.

"This is an effort to raise the issue and see if it gets through the
Legislature this year and work through the policy issues."