A leading researcher from the University of California in San Francisco announced last week that he is going to leave the US for Cambridge University in the UK. Professor Roger Pedersen is a scientist investigating the potential uses of human embryonic stem cells (ES cells) in the treatment of disease. He is leaving the US amidst political uncertainty about ES cell research, believing that in the UK there is 'public support' for such research. Since the mid 1990s, US law has banned the use of federal funds for ES cell research. The Clinton administration agreed recommendations that would have allowed ES cell lines derived in the private sector to be used in the public sector, but this never occurred. President Bush is currently considering whether to renew, revise or reverse this recommendation.
Some US research groups believe that Pedersen's departure is the first move in a 'brain drain' that will see US scientists heading to Britain and other countries, where legislation on scientific research is more clear and more permissive. Professor Pedersen was 'enticed' with a grant worth more than £1 million from the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC). He will take a position in Cambridge's department of surgery at Addenbrooke's Hospital. A spokesman for Cambridge University said 'we anticipate that he will play a significant academic role and participate in bringing stem cells into use for the treatment of human diseases'. Pedersen said 'I am not a hero leading the charge, I am just trying to get some work done. I am flowing like water towards an opportunity to do that without a lot of distractions.'