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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
US warned of cloning 'brain drain'
Cells BBC
Cloning is legal in the UK, Israel and Australia
The American biotechnology industry is warning of an exodus of scientists because of moves to make human cloning for medical research illegal.

I can't imagine anything more arrogant than to say the entire American public would not be allowed to benefit from therapies that might develop in England

Dr Paul Berg, Stanford University
Creating human embryos in a cloning process to extract cells that can be turned into tissues to replace diseased parts of the body is legal in the UK, as well as in Israel and Australia. Japan is also poised to issue guidelines that will legitimise some aspects of this work.

But the US House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to ban any form of human cloning in America, and a similar bill is now going through the Senate.

"This legislation would force scientists to leave the United States and go to other countries like the United Kingdom, because it carries prison sentences and severe fines that will not be taken lightly," said David Humpherys, a molecular biologist at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The proposals passed by the House of Representatives would also block imports of embryo clones - or medical treatments that resulted from the use of embryo clones.

Congressman JC Watts
Congressman JC Watts is one of the bill's main backers
This element of the bill was condemned by Dr Paul Berg, a Stanford University professor who won a Nobel Prize in 1980 for his work on DNA chemistry.

He called the House vote "a disgraceful decision - and what was almost as disgraceful was that most of the people voting on the bill didn't understand the issues.

"I can't imagine anything more arrogant than to say the entire American public would not be allowed to benefit from therapies that might develop in England, Japan, France, Germany or other countries that allow cloning research."

Dr John Gearhart, a Johns Hopkins University professor who pioneered the isolation of human embryonic stem cells, said the legislation would be a "serious setback" for American science.

"The likelihood is that the most cutting-edge research would move to the United Kingdom and other countries that allow it to go forward," he said.

Dr Gearhart said some scientists were already leaving the US amid concerns that President George W Bush was planning to prevent the federal government sponsoring research involving any type of embryonic stem cells, including those derived from frozen embryos discarded by fertility clinics.

One American leader in the field, Roger Pedersen, has left the University of California, San Francisco, for Cambridge University, citing American resistance to his work.

His lab in the US is now threatened with closure.

See also:

01 Aug 01 | Americas
US heads for human cloning ban
01 Aug 01 | Health
Scientists grow heart cells
19 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Ban baby cloning, says Royal Society
01 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
A better class of clones
30 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Cloned human planned 'by 2003'
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