The Lords Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry into regenerative medicine. They will be looking at UK expertise in the field, the regulatory and financial barriers to translating and commercializing the research underway, and exploring the treatments that could stem from the research in the future. They are calling for evidence by 20 September.
What is regenerative medicine?
It’s an exciting field that aims to replace or regenerate human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function lost by defect, disease or injury. Stem cells are the obvious example, which have almost unlimited potential to be used to repair the body. Embyonic stem cells have been used to partially restore sight and even grow a complete windpipe for an 11 year old boy, for example. Using the patient’s own stem cells can avoid immune rejection. Doctors are also already able to harness the body’s own regenerative powers – analogues of naturally produced signalling molecules (haparan sulphate is one example) can be used to stimulate wound repair.
The UK is considered a world leader in regenerative medicine. The government conducted a stocktake of regenerative medicine in the UK in July 2011, which identified ten actions to support regenerative medicine, to be taken forward by the Office for Life Sciences. And in April four research councils – MRC, EPSRC, BBSRC and ESRC – and the Technology Strategy Board published a new strategy to guide investment in regenerative medicine over the next five years. Becky blogged about it here. All this attention hints at the potential the technology holds for the UK, both in terms of health and economic wealth.
AMRC members are also major funders of research into regenerative medicine – the British Heart Foundation is making £6 million available specifically for cardiovascular regenerative medicine through their mending broken hearts campaign for example.
What will the Lords be looking at?
The inquiry by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee will be led by Lord Krebs. The inquiry’s website gives some examples of what the committee will be wanting to know:
- How does the UK rank internationally in regenerative medicine? What are the UK’s strengths and weaknesses in the field? Who are the major funders?
- Is the science being translated into practical applications? What treatments are available on the NHS and privately? What is the potential for regenerative medicine in the next 5-10 years?
- What regulatory barriers and challenges to innovation are there in this inter-disciplinary field? How can these be overcome?
- What is the current and potential value of the sector to the UK economy?
- Is the Government doing enough to attract investment in companies working in this area? What business models are most appropriate to support development in this area?
- What can the UK learn from international competitors about supporting the development and commercialisation of regenerative medicine?
- What risks do UK citizens face when travelling to other countries for regenerative treatments?
They will be taking written evidence from any interested organsiations and oral evidence from experts. The dates for the oral evidence aren’t set yet.
Once the evidence is in, the committee will decide whether they want to invite some organisations in to give further evidence in person. The deadline for written submissions is 20 September.
AMRC will be responding. We’d love to hear from you with any points you think we should be making or if you have any examples you’d like us to raise. Email Becky at email@example.com.