The recent announcement of a public private partnership by three Europe-based pharmaceutical companies and the British government for using human embryonic stem cells to assess the safety of investigational drugs gives a boost to stem cell research and clinical trials.
Testing investigational drugs in animals during preclinical studies can help in understanding the toxicity of drugs only to a certain extent. The primary objective of undertaking trials combined with the high failure rates of drugs at this stage of drug development makes it desirable to have a reliable way of assessing drug safety in laboratories.
Pharmaceutical companies have been shying away from embryonic stem cell research, which is embroiled in ethical controversies. It is commendable that Britain open to embryonic stem cell research, has been able to draw the pharmaceutical companies out of their shell and show that scientific development cannot be blocked by irrational considerations.
While the three pharmaceutical companies currently involved are from Europe, more companies from Europe and elsewhere are expected to join the venture. It should not come as a surprise if United States-based companies that have been dogged by the Bush administrationís obscurantical strictures on embryonic stem cell research come in at a stone age. A human rights advocate from nonprofit Texans for public justice
said "It is time the U.S. administration realised that holding on to a 'pro-life' stand and refusing to expand federal funding to newly derived embryonic stem cell lines will be a disservice to the American people and to humanity."