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Embryology

Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2009

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the comments by Lord Drayson on 3 March (Official Report, House of Lords, cols. 702–3) regarding funding for research on stem cells and regenerative medicines, what assessment they have made of the comments attributed to Dr Stephen Minger in the Tablet (9 May, page 6) regarding funding; what funding they have contributed to the United Kingdom Stem Cell Foundation to support the transfer of stem cell techniques from laboratories to patient care; and what further funding they plan to give to the foundation. [HL3857]

The Government do not provide funding directly to the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF). However, the Medical Research Council (MRC), which is one of the main agencies though which the Government support medical and clinical research, has committed £2.3 million to five joint projects run by the UKSCF in the past two years. Other funding for these projects is provided by Scottish Enterprise, the London Development Agency and the Wales Office of Research and Development for Health and Social Care.

The MRC has recently formed the Translational Stem Cell Research Committee which offers continued opportunity for co-funding with the UKSCF, as well as other research charities.

The MRC has not made an assessment of the comments in the Tablet.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 7 June 2007 (WA 203–4) and by Lord Darzi of Denham on 18 May (WA 250–1), whether the requirements of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as subsequently amended) permit the use of cloning for therapeutic purposes where this does not involve the derivation of stem cells, such as the use of nuclear transfer in reproduction. [HL3858]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (the 2008 Act), most of which is to be commenced on 1 October 2009, sets out in primary legislation a complete prohibition on the implantation in a woman of any embryo created by reproductive cloning. This reflects the fact that Parliament has made clear that it does not want to see reproductive cloning take place.

The 2008 Act contains a regulation-making power which would permit the use of cell nuclear transfer for the specific therapeutic purpose of preventing the transmission of serious mitochondrial diseases. This power is about helping couples conceive a child without the faulty mitochondria that affect the maternal line.

In order for any such regulations to come into force they would have to be consulted upon, and debated and approved by Parliament.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 16 July 2008 (WA 153–4) and 18 May (WA 250–1), how the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority supported the comments by Dr Stephen Minger, Professor Peter Braude, Professor Justin St John, Professor Azim Surani, Professor Lord Winston and Professor Wolf Reik, reported by the Guardian on 22 April. [HL3888]

I have been informed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that it has nothing further to add to the response given to the noble Lord on 6 May 2009 (WA 117).

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 22 July 2008 (WA 243–45), 5 May (WA 96) and 20 May (WA 317–8), why Roslin Cells Limited was not included among the centres which have publicly available inspection reports that provide details on the culture of outgrowing embryos, if the objective of the centre's licence was to derive embryonic stem cells. [HL3929]

I have been advised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that the inspection report of Roslin Cells Limited was not included among the centres referred to in my Answer of 5 May 2009 (WA 96), because the latest inspection report does not contain details of the embryo culture method used.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 20 May (WA 317–18), whether details regarding the culture of outgrowing embryos are included in inspection reports to reflect deposition of stem cell lines in the UK Stem Cell Bank; whether the omission of such details in the inspection report for Roslin Cells Limited, dated 2 April 2008, means that no embryonic stem cell lines have been thus derived; and whether the inclusion of such details in the inspection reports for Guy's Hospital, dated 2 April 2008, and Oxford Fertility Centre, dated 16 September 2008, reflect embryonic stem cell lines having been derived. [HL3930]

I have been advised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that inspection reports are for licence committees to determine a centre's compliance with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, licence conditions and the HFEA code of practice. The reports focus on areas of compliance and non-compliance and therefore are not intended to be detailed scientific documents with a description of every protocol used. Description of a method used for embryo culture and stem cell derivation within an inspection report is not an indication of whether a stem cell line has been derived using that method.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 22 July 2008 (WA 243–5) and 20 May (WA 317–18), how many embryonic stem cell lines from outgrowing embryos have been deposited in the UK Stem Cell Bank by each of (a) Guy's Hospital, (b) Oxford Fertility Centre, and (c) Roslin Cells Limited; and, if no embryonic stem cell lines have been thus derived since the issue was raised in 2006, how the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has assessed the validity of a licence to culture embryos for more than 14 days. [HL3931]

Information on the number of embryonic stem cell lines from outgrown embryos is not held centrally.

I am informed that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) does not hold data on the number of stem cell lines from HFEA licensed research projects deposited in the United Kingdom Stem Cell Bank. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 provides that no licence may permit the culture of a “live human embryo” beyond 14 days or the appearance of the primitive streak (whichever comes first), and no licence does.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Darzi of Denham on 20 May (WA 318), how often the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) considers inspection reports and progress reports in order to ensure that the proposed research covered by a licence remains necessary or desirable for one of the prescribed purposes and to ensure that the use of an embryo remains necessary in pursuing aims as understood by the HFEA's peer reviewers; and whether there are exceptions. [HL3932]

I have been advised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that when applying to the HFEA for a research licence applicants are required to provide, along with the objectives of the research and other information, justification for the creation and/or use of embryos. Two peer reviews are sought for initial licence applications and the HFEA Executive carries out an onsite inspection. A research licence committee, which consists of members of the authority, will consider this information when deciding whether the proposed research is necessary or desirable for one of the prescribed purposes, and therefore whether or not to grant an initial licence.

Following the grant of a research licence, further inspections are undertaken periodically and those inspection reports are considered by a research licence committee. Licensed research centres are required to submit progress reports to the HFEA annually (or six monthly for stem cell research) outlining the research undertaken to date and how this relates to the objectives. When applying to the HFEA for the renewal of a research licence, centres are required to outline how the work undertaken related to the objectives of the original application and how the work they propose to carry out relates to the work since the research licence was granted or since the centre's previously submitted progress report.

The research licence committee refers to the renewal application, latest inspection report, latest progress report and one peer review when deciding whether the research remains necessary or desirable for one of the prescribed purposes, and therefore whether to renew a licence.

There are no exceptions to this method of assessment.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 28 February 2008 (WA 135), 3 July 2008 (WA 49) and 20 May (WA 332–3), why they do not collect information centrally about the number of licensed centres providing fertility services for NHS patients in accordance with the February 2004 National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines. [HL3933]

The number of licensed centres with which the National Health Service contracts for the provision of fertility services is a matter for primary care trusts (PCTs) locally. We collect information on PCTs’ policies on the provision of fertility services. The most recent survey is currently being analysed.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Lord Darzi of Denham on 28 February 2008 (WA 135) and 20 May (WA 332–3), why the expert group on commissioning National Health Service infertility provision identified that the expertise of commissioners and their awareness of the consequences of infertility had to be developed; and what were the previous criteria for appointment to the expert group on commissioning National Health Service infertility provision. [HL3934]

The expert group on commissioning National Health Service infertility provision identifies that expert commissioning skills needed to be developed and maintained if fertility services are to be commissioned in an equitable way to meet patients’ needs. The criteria for membership of the expert group include expertise in commissioning and knowledge of the needs of patients with fertility problems.