The peak body representing Australia's leading scientists, the Australian Academy of Science, has strongly urged Members of the House of Representatives to support the passage of the Patterson Bill and the recommendations of the Lockhart report on stem cell research.
In a letter to Members of Parliament, the Academy stressed the importance of updating the 2002 Acts – Prohibition of Human Cloning Act and Research Involving Human Embryos Act.
Chair of the Academy's National Committee for Medicine Professor Bob Williamson said: 'There have been many major advances in adult and embryonic stem cell research and significant legislative changes overseas since the Acts were introduced in 2002.
'New research shows the value of embryonic and adult stem cells and somatic cell nuclear transfer in informing work to improve the health of Australians.
'Retaining a total ban on somatic cell nuclear transfer in Australia rather than allowing it under strict, transparent regulation will disadvantage Australian researchers, the Australian economy – and ultimately, the people of Australia. The less restrictive regulatory environment overseas already has led to a number of prominent stem cell scientists leaving Australia for the United States.
The Academy's support for the Lockhart Committee recommendations, including the continued ban on human reproductive cloning, follows extensive consultation and expert advice from its Fellows.
The Academy agrees also that adult and especially embryonic stem cell research offer great potential in medical research. A patient's adult stem cells have the great advantages of proven safety and the absence of immune rejection. Embryonic stem cells and their relatives made by somatic cell nuclear transfer – therapeutic cloning – have the great advantages of being able to make every kind of cell in the body and to multiply indefinitely.
Professor Williamson added: 'The recommendations of the Lockhart Committee will allow adult and embryonic stem cell research to proceed in parallel to maximise the opportunity of developing medical applications from this research.'
The Academy, based in Canberra, is offering scientific information to any Member of the House of Representatives or other interested parties who wish to use its knowledge and expertise in making their considerations.
© 2020 Australian Academy of Science