Thursday, October 04, 2007

Will Singapore Gain as Bush Suppresses Growth of Stem Cell Research?

Will Singapore Gain as Bush Suppresses Growth of Stem Cell Research?
The meeting of the Stem Cell Club in Singapore at the $300 million government-funded science park called Biopolis, whose members include researchers at the forefront of one of the most promising and controversial areas of science today. as part of its efforts in Singapore is to create a globally competitive biomedical industry. Singapore has lured star scientists such as Alan Colman, who helped clone Dolly the sheep, and David Lane, who discovered a protein that suppresses some tumors.

Singapore has spent more than $3 billion in a bid to transform its economy into a knowledge-based one that relies less on manufacturing of products like cell phones and modems and more on fields such as research.

The Singaporean government aims to create 15,000 jobs in the city-state of 4.5 million people and boost annual production to 25 billion Singapore dollars by 2015.

Philip Yeo, former chairman of the state's Agency for Science, Technology and Research, known as A*STAR can already point to tangible results. “Annual output of drugs and medical devices has quadrupled since 2000 to S$23 billion last year. In the same period, the country created 10,571 new jobs”, says Yeo, 61, who as head of the Economic Development Board for 15 years led Singapore's efforts to create its own electronics and chemicals industries.

Since 2001, more than 100 foreign drug makers and biomedical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Novartis AG and Pfizer Inc., have set up factories here, attracted partly by patent enforcement that's the strictest in Asia, which protects both international patents and those granted in Singapore.

One area where Singapore is trying to distinguish itself is in stem cell research. Embryonic stem cells, which are the human raw materials that can grow into heart muscle, nerves or other organs, have the ability to divide and renew themselves.

The research is contentious. Some stem cells are derived from embryos that are donated or discarded by couples undergoing fertility treatments. The embryos, which are a few days old, are destroyed in the process.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said such experiments pose "moral hazards". In August 2001, Bush cut off U.S. funding for research on all but existing stem cell lines made from discarded human embryos. A stem cell line is a group of cells derived from a single embryo; the U.S. has approved research on 22 such cell lines that were created before August 2001.
Germany and Italy, among other countries, also restricts the use of human embryonic stem cells in research.

Singapore's prospects are good and everything indicates the government will have the patience. Will Singapore capitalize on the stem cell research industry?