The UK government is to sink £100 million into stem cell research over the next two years, marking an extra investment of £50 million to accelerate the development of therapies for incurable devastating illnesses.

Speaking at the Treasury’s Advancing Enterprise conference, Chancellor Gordon Brown said: “Britain should be the world's number one centre for genetic and stem cell research building on our world leading regulatory regime in this area. I can today announce we are taking forward a new public-private partnership to invest in pre-commercial aspects of stem cell research and to coordinate future research.”

In addition, recommendations in the UK Stem Cell Initiative report, launched by Sir John Pattison on December 2, have been welcomed by the government, which says it pledges to: support basic stem cell research and Centres of Excellence, the UK Stem Cell Bank, cell production facilities and clinical research in the National Health Service; support the joint UK Stem Cell Foundation/Medical Research Council initiative to support translational stem cell research and clinical trials; work towards a public-private consortium to use stem cells to enhance drug discovery and development; and build on the close links established under the UK Stem Cell Initiative to provide effective forums to share knowledge, boost collaboration and provide a platform for public dialogue on stem cell research over the next decade.

Commenting on the report, Health Minister Jane Kennedy noted: “This report provides a clear vision for maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader in basic research, and provides a pathway to translate this research into new therapies to benefit patients.” She added: “It is important we continue our long-term commitment to stem cells. They have the potential to help millions of people and could lead to new treatments for serious diseases for which there is currently no cure.”

The chancellor also unveiled plans aimed at boosting general medical research in the UK, including the establishment of a National Institute for Health Research and 10 academic medical centres of excellence, in the hope that this could spur private sector investment of around £1 billion to accelerate development of new drugs, according to media reports.