Thursday, January 11, 2007

Stem cell centre plan confirmed

Stem cells could be used to treat a number of human diseases

A world-leading centre in stem cell science and regenerative medicine is to be built in Edinburgh, ministers have confirmed.
Additional Scottish Executive funding of £24m will allow Edinburgh University to develop the £59m centre in collaboration with Scottish Enterprise.

The Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM) is thought to be equalled only one in Kobe, Japan.

Prof Ian Wilmut, formerly of the Roslin Institute, will be the director.

The state-of -the-art facilities are expected to house 220 academic researchers and will include a centre for "scale-up" development and manufacture of cells. Space will also be made available for commercial regenerative medicine.

It is hoped that the SCRM, which will be part of the new Centre for Biomedical Research at Edinburgh's Little France, will create about 560 jobs and generate £18.2m per year for the Scottish economy.

The technologies and potential health treatments based on stem cell research have tremendous potential for both health and economic development
Jack McConnell
First Minister

"This will be a fantastic development for Edinburgh, a significant boost to the Scottish economy and will be at the forefront of improving the lives of people right around the world for decades to come," said First Minister Jack McConnell during a visit to the site.

The project will draw on the country's well-established strengths in regenerative medicine using stem cell technologies and allow Scotland to become a European leader in medical research, according to Mr McConnell.

"The technologies and potential health treatments based on stem cell research have tremendous potential for both health and economic development, with the prospect of delivering significant breakthroughs in the clinical treatment of some of the most degenerative diseases," he added.

The announcement comes as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is expected to make an announcement about research into hybrid embryos.

The research, which involves the creation of part-animal, part-human embryos, has attracted controversy but leading scientists believe its use could help patients with serious diseases such as Alzheimer's and motor-neurone disease.

Mr McConnell hopes Scotland will be leading centre for research

Prof Wilmut, who joined other experts earlier this week in urging the fertility watchdog not to bar research into hybrid embryos, stressed his belief that it was necessary and claimed the procedure would be carried out using transplanting cells at the new centre, if allowed.

Prof Timothy O'Shea, University of Edinburgh principal, said the centre would make a significant contribution to the health of many people across the world.

"Scotland has a world lead in fundamental stem cell sciences," he added. "The most important area of application is regenerative medicine, particularly in relation to degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease."

As well as the £24m package announced by the executive, the University will put in £19m and a further £16m will be provided by the Scottish Enterprise, subject to its board's approval later this month.

"My colleagues within the Scottish Enterprise Network have been working extremely closely with our partners to bring this project to fruition and position Scotland as a global leader in stem cell research and development," said Jack Perry, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise.

Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser for Scotland, added: "Scotland is internationally renowned for the breadth and depth of its stem cell expertise.

"This initiative has the potential to significantly expand areas for research and development and further strengthens Scotland's international profile in this area."

It is anticipated that the centre will be completed by 2010.