Not-so-happy St. Patrick’s day for Irish stem cell scientists

Irish stem cell scientists may be wearing a gloomy shade of green this year on St. Patrick’s Day. February elections brought to power the Fine Gael party, which opposes human embryonic stem cell research.

The country’s scientists had been working without clear stem cell guidance when the previous government – which had been supportive of biomedical research – failed to create regulations governing the work. According to a recent story in the Nature blog:

It had promised to do so in December 2009 as part of planned legislation governing assisted human reproduction. But that same month it disbanded the Irish Council for Bioethics (which might have provided independent advice on legislation) to save money, and the legislation never emerged.

Ireland’s public funding agencies, Science Foundation Ireland and the Health Research Board, both decided not to fund work involving hES cells until the legal situation is clarified. Two universities — Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork — have internal rules allowing such research on imported hES cell lines, if researchers are supported with foreign research grants. In the legislative uncertainty, no scientist has taken this up.

CIRM has long recognized that California scientists can’t work in isolation from biomedical leaders around the world. Many of our rounds of funding include commitments from partner funding organizations in order to inspire collaborations between researchers. CIRM funds the California portion and other agencies fund the collaborator in their country. You can learn more about our collaborative stem cell funding program or see a list of awards with international collaborators

The Irish Stem Cell Foundation, established in 2009, has been working to promote stem cell science and international collaborations within the country’s stem cell community. Anybody interested in promoting stem cell science and legislation in Ireland may want to weigh in on their website or follow them on Twitter (@IrishStemCell). If the group is successful perhaps next St. Patrick’s Day will inspire a cheerier shade of green among the country’s stem cells scientists.