Winston blames red tape for move to US

The fertility doctor and television celebrity Robert Winston is moving a key part of his research on organ transplants to America because of government red-tape that he says has ruined one of his experiments.

Lord Winston said yesterday that his experiments on genetically modified pigs were part of an area of research that could eventually prove more useful for NHS patients than the sequencing of the human genome, yet the work was being thwarted by bureaucracy over animal welfare.

Speaking at the British Association's Science Festival in York, Lord Winston said that it took him 13 months to obtain a simple research licence from the Home Office for the pig experiment, which had eventually to be abandoned because of an obscure European directive covering the movement of farm animals.

The aim of the research was to modify the genes of a male pig's sperm cells so that the animals could then take part in a breeding programme to produce "transgenic" pigs with humanised organs which could be transplanted into patients in need of them.

Lord Winston said: "One of the biggest problems in Britain is the regulatory framework. It's been very difficult to get this sort of animal work going. It took about 13 months to get an animal licence to simply inject the testes of six pigs. That, I think, is not really very acceptable.

"We were then refused permission to mate the animals so we couldn't demonstrate that we had actually got the appropriate gene target in the right place and that it was expressing in the offspring. That was very disappointing."

Lord Winston said the regulatory framework covering animal experiments in Britain was so limiting that it was easier for scientists like him to go abroad, especially to the United States where there was money and interest as well as less restrictive laws. He said: "What I fear is that this work is bound to go on elsewhere. Certainly there is increasing interest in America. We will certainly apply to the US National Institutes of Health to continue this work in Missouri."

He said in his experiment, the six pigs were moved from a farm to a laboratory where they underwent an operation to alter their sperm cells. But when they were moved back to the farm they were not allowed to breed because of a ruling by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

He said: "It does seem rather blinkered not to allow work that causes absolutely no suffering to the animal and simply allows them a bit of pleasure when they mate.

"The ability to generate genetically modified animals is infinitely more important and has greater impact scientifically than, for example, the sequencing of the human genome.

"The Home Office is increasingly nervous about what is perceived about public concern about animal experimentation. In my view it's not been a well handled subject.

"For too long scientists have been rather intimidated by what is perceived as a very aggressive and violent reaction by a relatively small number of people who are firmly convinced that any kind of experimentation on animals is wrong."

Lord Winston believes transgenic organs could end waiting lists for heart and other transplants.

A regular complaint from scientists

It has frequently been said by scientists working in Britain that this country has the toughest set of regulations in the world governing animal experiments. Lord Winston's story highlights some of the difficulties they face.

Even the smallest "procedure" on an animal – such as taking a blood sample – requires researchers to apply for an individual research licence from the Home Office. Each procedure is considered in isolation and an institute cannot carry out experiments wholesale even if it has a site licence for animal research.

In the past it has taken many months for these licences to be granted. As one scientist wrote in The Times Higher Education Supplement: "Nobody appears to be able to stand up to this regulatory excess. I suspect that by making animal experimentation as long-winded and tortuous as possible, the hope is to make it difficult to do any real work."

Nevertheless, the number of animal experiments conducted in Britain has reached its highest level in 15 years with more than 3 million "procedures" performed in 2006 – a 4 per cent increase on 2005.

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices