May 30, 2024

Steep fee rises mooted for embryo research in UK

The fee for a government licence to conduct research on embryos in the UK could soar from ?200 to ?6,000 because of Treasury cost-recovery rules. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority says that “researchers must bear a more realistic licence fee to meet the costs of regulating human embryo research”. A ?6,000 flat fee is one of three options — but all of them involve steep increases.

The move provoked strident protests from scientists who insisted that the additional costs would destroy research in areas where the UK is currently strong. Professor Neil McClure, of Queens University Belfast, told a parliamentary committee that the HFEA should not meddle in “basic projects” like IVF and stem cell research, unlike “controversial work on cloning or genetic modification, where the embryo is altered”.

Another scientist, Dr Simon Festing, of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said that high fees and bureaucracy had already scuppered some research on animals. Fee increases for working with human embryos could force some small organisations to abandon their research plans.