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network focus. UK Networking in Stem Cell Science


and Regenerative Medicine By Ben Sykes, Executive Director, UK National Stem Cell Network (UKNSCN)


During the course of the past decade, the developing science of stem cell research and its applications in regenerative medicine has spawned a number of regional and national bodies dedicated to networking. The drive for such networking has arisen largely due to the high number of different stakeholders who are involved in conducting basic research in the regenerative medicine field and translating it into commercially viable clinical applications.


The majority of networking organisations which have arisen in the UK have promoted regional activities by virtue of their funding model, with activities restricted by the finance available and regional geography. At some point in their history, most of the regional stem cell networks have received significant support from the former Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) whilst attempting to diversify their funding sources as much as possible. Some long-established networks no longer exist – such as the highly successful East of England Stem Cell Network (EESCN) – whilst others such as the Scottish Stem Cell Network (SSCN) have successfully evolved into not-for-profit companies able to apply for, and secure, competitively won grant funding. Regener8 and the London Regenerative Medicine Network (LRMN) continue to operate, with other regions of the UK having less-formally constituted networks such as the Mercia Stem Cell Alliance (MCSA) which covers North West England and the West Midlands.


In 2006, the UK Government established the UK National Stem Cell Network (UKNSCN) in response to recommendation 10 of the UK Stem Cell Initiative report (which became known as the Pattison Report after its author). Funded by four Government Research Councils and hosted by the BBSRC, the UKNSCN set out to bring greater national coordination of activities, information and research across the sub-disciplines of stem cell science, with a view to enhancing basic research and helping to speed its translation into therapeutic applications.


In late 2009 and throughout 2010, the UKNSCN established a forum for key decision makers from each network in the UK to come together and begin discussing how all the activities currently underway could be integrated under one national networking body and how that body might be funded and resourced. Whilst embracing this challenging and longer-term vision, the Network of Networks (as it became known!) sought to determine in the short-term how it could deliver joint activities in a more cost-effective way. This process began with the sharing of strategic planning documents and an attempt to identify common objectives and activities. The most notable and successful early example of new cooperation was the co-funded stem cell public engagement events which took place around the UK in the first quarter of 2011 in which UKNSCN collaborated closely with the relevant local network.


Ben Sykes


Whilst embracing this challenging and longer-term vision, the Network of Networks (as it became known!) sought to determine in the short-term how it could deliver joint activities in a more cost-effective way


The forum is chaired by the UKNSCN’s Advisory Committee Chair Dr Cathy Prescott of Biolatris Limited, though its significant initial momentum has stalled temporarily whilst the UK Government considers a new proposal from the UK research community for the future governance and operation of the UKNSCN in 2012 and beyond.


For more information on the UKNSCN visit www.uknscn.org


www.regener8.ac.uk


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