BresaGen: stem cell debate won't affect our research

By Tanya Hollis
Tuesday, 05 March, 2002

BresaGen has reassured investors its projects are not threatened by potential regulation of stem cell research in Australia.

Responding to media reports debating the impact of the expected regulation on Australian research groups, the Adelaide company said its product development work was not under threat.

Chief executive officer Dr John Smeaton said he understood proposed legislative changes to involve the banning of new embryonic stem cell lines.

Smeaton said he did not believe the regulatory amendments would affect stem cell lines that had already been derived.

"It is our intention to continue to bring stem cell lines back to Australia to continue work that complements our US efforts," he said.

"The proposed regulations do not affect our ability to do this."

He said the company used only stem cell lines derived from embryos that IVF experts had deemed incapable of implantation.

"Instead of being simply discarded they are made available to us for research or product development purposes by donors who have given informed consent," said Smeaton in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.

He said people who preferred their embryos be used in research rather than being thawed and discarded had also approached the company.

"BresaGen will be developing new human embryonic stem cell lines for both technical and humanitarian reasons," he said.

The technical reason was to produce cell lines that were not contaminated with mouse diseases as a result of the derivation process, which often involved mouse cells being used as "feeders" to provide essential nutrients to the human cells.

He said the humanitarian reason dealt with broad access to stem cell derived products.

"It is highly likely that the first products will be allografts which means some cell line to recipient matching will be required," Smeaton said.

"A large bank of different cell lines will ensure access to all ethnic and racial groups."

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