Tuesday, June 27, 2006

China No. 1 on ESC Spending, except for California?

Earlier this spring, some members of the California stem cell agency's task force on intellectual property wondered about the size of funding worldwide for embryonic stem cell research, excluding the United States.

The answer seems to be something in the neighborhood of $600 million annually, but that figure could well be low. The total is derived from a report on the CIRM Strategic Planning Site, which reviewed research activities in a number of countries. The report seems to confirm the conventional wisdom that CIRM, at $300 million-plus a year, would be the world's single largest source of funding for embryonic stem cell research.

The CIRM document is called "Overview on the Current State of the Development of New Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines." The document is heavily qualified and "is not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive." For example, some of the funding reported is current only as of 2004. And it is not entirely clear whether some of the numbers include funding for non-embryonic stem cell research.

Squishy as the numbers may be, they do provide a window on the size of programs in various countries. The CIRM staff report did not attempt to come up with a total or a ranking, a task attempted by the California Stem Cell Report. Our results are filled with caveats to numerous to mention.

China appears to have the largest annual program with a total as high as $249 million with the United Kingdom following at about $193 million, although it is not clear that all of the UK funding is available. Likewise, China's spending may be less.

Australia comes in at about $47 million, Singapore at $25 million, Korea at $18 million, Canada at $17 million, Israel at $7 million, Sweden at $2.2 million and India at $1.9 million. You may think some of these numbers seem strange. So do we, for a variety of reasons.

For example, Singapore has created a $600 million fund to invest in cutting-edge life science projects, including stem cells. But it is not clear from the document whether any of that money is included in the $25 million total for stem cell research expenditures.

Singapore is also involved with Australia in an endeavor called ES Cell International Pte Ltd. (ESI). It is not clear how the funding for that group is split between the two countries.

Other examples could be cited. But this is a rough cut. Many other interesting bits of grist can be found in the document. Sphere: Related Content

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