'Unethical to Stop Research'

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 12, 2004) — Carl B. Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), today issued the following statement regarding the Hwang et al. study in which a human embryonic stem cell line appears to have been produced using somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT):

"Although this is early-stage research, the technique described at the AAAS meeting in Seattle and in Science appears to be a significant advance for transplantation medicine. For the first time, scientists report having derived pluripotent embryonic stem cells from an individual using SCNT, a crucial first step toward developing genetically identical, transplantable cells and tissues for diseases such as diabetes, osteoarthritis and Parkinson's disease.

"Although this technology clones cells, it is not human reproductive cloning. The goal is to produce transplantable cells and tissues, not babies.

"Yet some want to ban all applications of SCNT, including transplant-oriented research, as a means of blocking reproductive cloning experiments. But with 100 million patients waiting for breakthroughs in transplant medicine, it would be unethical to stop the research, especially now.

"Already, an uncertain political climate has slowed this significant avenue of research considerably in the United States. It's no coincidence that much of the groundbreaking work in this field is being done overseas. BIO today joins the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research in calling on Congress to follow the will of a solid majority of Americans by enacting legislation that bans reproductive cloning but allows and encourages therapeutic research using SCNT."

BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.