Governance of Stem Cell-Based Embryo Models public dialogue
The Governance of Stem Cell-Based Embryo Models (G-SCBEM) project is an initiative to develop the first governance framework for research using stem cell-based embryo models (SCBEMs) in the UK. The project is led by Cambridge Reproduction in partnership with the Progress Educational Trust (PET).
Currently there is no dedicated regulatory framework addressing research using Stem Cell Based Embryo Models (SCBEMs), although existing UK law does prohibit them from ever being transferred into a woman’s womb. SCBEMs are a very fast-developing area of research, and it is vital that guidance – both statutory and non-statutory – is able to keep pace with new developments.
A public dialogue supported by Sciencewise and the BBSRC Impact Acceleration Account will build on and learn from the recent public dialogue on research with early human embryos. It will involve previous participants from that dialogue, which touched on the area of SCBEMs, in dialogue about their understanding, views, hopes and concerns regarding research that involves stem cell-based embryo models (SCBEMs). This dialogue will help to ensure that public perspectives are reflected in the G-SCBEM governance framework.
The objectives of the dialogue are to:
- gain a deeper understanding of public views on, and around the value and potential risks of, research using SCBEMs;
- understand whether and/or how public participants expect SCBEMs to be regulated in future, including legal and governance structures;
- enable scientists and public participants to engage in a constructive dialogue to hear, reflect, consider and respond to issues around the research;
- reflect on the draft governance framework and how this might be strengthened, including identifying any missing themes or issues;
- identify participants’ views about specific proposals or recommendations in the draft G-SCBEM governance framework;
- ensure dialogue findings inform subsequent drafts of the governance framework and other relevant decisions, activities and guidance.
The outcomes and implications of the G-SCBEM project are far-ranging and could inform changes to fundamental research practice, as well as to the regulations governing this research in the UK. Given the similarities to human embryos, research on SCBEMs may be contentious for some. So it is crucial for those involved in this project to listen to public voices when developing a new governance framework for this research. In addition there has, to date, been no public engagement on how this research should be conducted or regulated, and very little research carried out into public attitudes about SCBEMs.