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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 03:19 GMT 04:19 UK
Blair to lure US stem cell firms
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
The UK's Blair is in the US to build bridges with US businesses
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to promote Britain as an ideal place for stem-cell research when he meets US biotechnology firms later.

Mr Blair is on a four-day visit to California to try to boost co-operation between the state and the UK.

The UK may benefit from an influx of cash as US stem-cell firms face vocal and politically powerful opposition.

In July, US President George W Bush used his veto for the first time to block funding for stem-cell research.

The topic is highly controversial and opponents are fighting hard to have research banned because the stem cells are removed from human embryos left over from fertility treatment and earmarked for disposal.

Critics argue that science cannot justify or claim progress by killing an embryo and ending a human life.

'Working with us'

Officials travelling with Mr Blair said that the UK wanted to increase co-operation and business ties with California as the two become increasingly focused on developing their hi-tech industries.

stem cell
Stem cells are drawn from human embryos

Mr Blair is due to meet with executives from US firms including Genentech, Gilead Sciences and Cell Genesys.

"They are interested in working with us in developing the stem cell industry and we're working towards a joint UK-California conference to be held in the UK in November," Mr Blair's spokesman said.

While US President Bush has used his veto to limit federal funding for stem-cell projects, California has passed legislation that would allow it to raise up to $3bn to finance related research.

Stem cells are able to turn themselves into any other type of cell in the body, and it is hoped they can be used to repair parts of the body or develop new drugs.

Supporters of stem-cell research believe that it can be used to find treatments for diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Last week, ministers from European Union member states agreed to continue funding research on embryonic stem cells but only if it did not lead to the death of an embryo.


SEE ALSO
Bush 'out of touch' on stem cells
20 Jul 06 |  Science/Nature
Bush uses veto on stem cell bill
19 Jul 06 |  Americas
US Senate approves stem cell bill
18 Jul 06 |  Americas
Q&A: The US debate over stem cells
20 May 05 |  Americas

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