April 24, 2024

Australia’s flagship stem cell centre in disarray

Conflict between research and commercialisation
Australia’s flagship stem cell research centre is in danger of complete disintegration. Several weeks ago CEO Stephen Livesey was sacked while he was on holidays by a seven-member board. Shortly afterwards they resigned en masse. The federal minister for science is studying a damning report which describes a fragmented, fractious and frustrated organisation which has been unable to meet the scientific milestones it needed to get ongoing funding from the federal government and the state of Victoria. "The centre is demonstrably unsuccessful," says the federal minister, Kim Carr.

According to The Australian, the rock on which the ASCC foundered was commercialisation. Dr Livesey wanted to push the commercial benefits of stem cell science, while the board favoured research. There is talk of transforming the dysfunctional organisation into something like the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (now led by a founder of the ASCC, Professor Alan Trounson). Under this model, it would not do research itself, but channel funding to scientists and promote stem cell research in the community. ~ Australian, Sept 13; The Age, Sept 11