Australia’s first licences allowing research using excess human embryos were issued today by the Embryo Research Licensing Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, (The NHMRC Licensing Committee).
The excess embryos can only be used in research under strict licence conditions if they are no longer required for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures and couples have given their informed consent.
Melbourne IVF has been granted a licence to develop tests to improve IVF success rates for couples with specific types of infertility.
Sydney IVF will use its licences to conduct research to improve IVF success rates, gain a better understanding of embryo metabolism and derive stem cells for medical research.
Committee Chair Professor Jock Findlay said the licences were issued only after the applicants had met stringent criteria required by the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002.
"The use of excess IVF embryos is now restricted by law through national legislation, which bans human cloning and regulates the use of excess human embryos created through assisted reproductive technology," Professor Findlay said.
"The Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 and the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 establish a strong regulatory framework and prohibit unacceptable practices such as the cloning of human beings.
"It is an offence to use excess IVF embryos for research and other purposes without a licence.
"The committee has ensured that these applications satisfy the extremely rigorous requirements of the Act."
The NHMRC Licensing Committee was established in 2003 following extensive consultation with the States and Territories. Committee members have expertise in research ethics, assisted reproductive technology, law, consumer issues and other relevant expertise as specified in the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002.
The licences are valid until 31 December 2005.
Further information can be found at: www.nhmrc.gov.au\embryo\artembry.htm
Jeanne Klener, NHMRC Communications Unit, 0401 995 534