Memorandum submitted by Dame Anne McLaren, Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Institute of Cancer and Development Biology
I was most interested to read the transcript of the discussion that you had with Ruth Deech, Suzi Leather and Helena Kennedy.
I feel quite strongly that the HFEA's responsibility for human embryonic stem cell research should be confined to the actual derivation of stem cell lines from human embryos. Further responsibility, for example for directed differentiation or for genetic manipulation for purposes of gene therapy, would be better lodged with a body that could eventually have oversight of clinical studies, for example the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee, at least when the cells have reached the stage of being tested for treatment. During the research phase, the Human Genetics Commission will no doubt have an interest.
A somewhat similar situation arises over surrogacy, where it was proposed at one stage that the HFEA should take responsibility, but it was really not within their remit and would certainly have overloaded their staff.
Since the HFEA seems to have a wider sphere of responsibility with every year that passes, they may in the future need more external expertise on their advisory committees and working groups, for example in horizon scanning. In my view this would be better than enlarging the size of the Authority which works well at its present size.