Last week’s parliamentary vote in favour of using interspecies or hybrid embryos for stem cell research is welcome but needs to be backed up with funding and a clear regulatory pathway, says the UK’s BioIndustry Association (BIA).

If the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is to “further enhance the already robust regulatory framework, the government must make it clear that an application for licences for research will also be a licence to develop therapies”, stressed BIA chief executive Aisling Burnand.

An amendment to ban the use of human admixed embryos for stem cell research was defeated on a free vote in the House of Commons by a margin of 336 to 176. Another amendment, which would have outlawed the use of ‘pure’ (i.e., as much as 50% animal) hybrids, was also defeated, by 286 votes to 223.

The controversial provisions were debated at the committee stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, following a second reading in the House of Commons earlier this month.

Parliamentary clearance was “a major step in the right direction and allows the UK to lead the way in this ground-breaking science”, Burnand said. “Although there is a long way to go before the benefits of this research reaches patients, this decision was crucial in the development of potential therapies for diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease.”

While the UK is well placed to continue as a leader in this field, “we must not be complacent”, Burnand warned. “To maintain this position will require appropriate levels of funding and a clear regulatory pathway to be established if UK patients are to benefit from this research.”

The BIA said it would “continue to engage with Parliament throughout the journey of this Bill to ensure that researchers have the clarity they need to be able to develop therapies that benefit the health of our society”.