House of Lords urges UK to learn a lesson from the stem cell agency

The House of Lords

The English House of Lords says the UK is in danger of missing out on the health and economic benefits of regenerative medicine and points to California’s stem cell agency as an example of what they should be doing to change that.

The warning comes from the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords in a report called Regenerative Medicine. Five members of the committee visited our offices last December 3-5, to look at the work we are doing here in California to advance stem cell research, to meet and talk to many of our staff and the researchers we fund, and to see what lessons the UK could learn from us.

Members of the House of Lords visiting CIRM’s offices

In a news release accompanying the publication of the report Lord Krebs, Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said:

“Regenerative medicine has the potential to be good for public health and the health of the UK economy but we must take steps now to ensure we realise that potential.” 

Lord Krebs also pointed out “other countries are taking decisive action to streamline processes and support this field”.

The report provided more in-depth detail saying:

“The UK needed, like CIRM, to build in front of its researchers: to think forward and prepare the space for where they are going. It was further suggested that money wasn’t enough—incentives were needed and providing scientists with a way to do it.” 

The report also stressed the impact that what it called the “CIRM model” was having on the field, not just in the US but globally saying there are several important lessons to be learned from us, including:

  • CIRM is transformative not just by providing money but through its leadership. We were impressed by the disease teams model—bringing people together to do things that mightn’t do separately
  • “Be bold”, take risks, don’t expect 100% success.
  • Four year target for getting to clinic; go-no go milestones; and support to achieve. CIRM truly did “lay down the gauntlet”. It has impressive possible outcomes. Its interventionist style is markedly different from the UK’s.

While it’s nice to get praise like this from such a thoughtful body the bigger lesson is that the goal of finding treatments and cures for deadly disease is a global one and we can all learn lessons from each other. Excellent stem cell science is taking place in countries around the world and it’s important that those countries share that knowledge and work with each other to advance the science. That’s why we have been creating collaborative funding partnerships with countries around the world since 2008 – including one with the UK Medical Research Council and the Scottish Enterprise (you can read about all our partnerships here)

One way or another, we are all in this together. And by working together we have a much better chance of reaching our goal.

Kevin McCormack

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