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News – Hybrid licence clash

August 2008

Hybrid licence clash

 

Another licence to create human-pig embryos, for the study of heart disease, has been issued to the University of Warwick by the fertility watchdog. This is the third animal-human hybrid embryo licence to be issued by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the first since the Commons voted in favour of this controversial research in June.

     A spokesman for the HFEA said it had approved an application from the University’s Clinical Sciences Research Institute for the creation of hybrid embryos. The centre has been offered a 12-month licence, with effect from 1 July 2008.

     Teams at the University of Newcastle and King’s College, London, are already creating hybrids. Newcastle has created hybrids with cow eggs to study gene switches in early development. The London team is experimenting with a range of species to generate stem cells from people with neurodegenerative disorders.

     However, there is genuine concern that the HFEA has acted outside its remit in issuing these licences. Tehe licensing is purportedly enacted under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990, yet a number of pro-life groups contend that the 1990 Act does not allow the HFEA to grant such licences.

     The Christian Legal Centre, together with Comment on Reproductive Ethics, has already filed legal papers for a Judicial Review over the decision to grant the Newcastle and London licences earlier this year.

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