According to the MRC, China's push for clinical applications, which has allowed it to produce new scientific knowledge quickly, has come at the expense of basic research aimed at, for example, overcoming technical challenges such as controlling how stem cells behave and differentiate.
Only 5.2% of China's budget for research and development is allocated to basic research, compared with 13 to 19% in Japan, Korea and the USA. Even the funds allocated for basic research favor 'strategic basic research' designed to encourage application.
China's recruitment policy a model for other developing countries
"China has catapulted itself into the field of regenerative medicine in a relatively short time," says Dr. Thorsteinsdttir. "The government's policy of attracting highly educated Chinese nationals back to China has contributed significantly to the country's success in the field."
"I was amazed that almost all the top Chinese researchers the regenerative medicine field had been educated in the US and the UK and gained extensive working experience there in cutting edge research," she adds. "This is a policy other countries lacking relevant human resources should consider."
"New regulations may in time help restore international confidence in Chinese stem cell innovations, but it will take time to evaluate their impact," says Dr. Daar. "The creation of new RM therapies needs a clear regulatory path. There should also be a closer connection between applied research and those providing therapy."
"China is an important player in regenerative medicine," says Ms. McMahon, "Despite the media's focus on stem cell tourism, the international community needs to recognize that Chinese researchers are making important contributions to the science of this field, and China should be included in international discourses on standards and regulations."
|Contact: Terry Collins|
Program on Life Sciences, Ethics and Policy,McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health