Cloning Guru Bemoans Money Woes for Project

Sept. 12

- SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The British cloning expert who helped create Dolly the sheep and was lured to Singapore to bolster its biotechnology sector said on Thursday he was finding it difficult to raise the money needed for research.

"It's more frustrating than I thought--the money issue," Alan Colman, who made headlines in 1996 for delivering the world's first cloned mammal, said on the sidelines of a life sciences conference.

Colman, who is the chief scientist for Singapore-based stem cell research group ES Cell International, said his research on the use of stem cells as a diabetes cure would need about $39.84 million.

"I'm looking, I'm looking," Colman said, when asked if he has sourced the funds.

"I'm finding it more difficult. I want more than I could get. It's always nice to have more years money so you can hire people and you can give them some security because at the end of the day, if you only have one year's money people won't join you," Colman said.

Colman, who moved to Singapore after 14 years with Scottish firm PPL Therapeutics, said he felt Singapore's drive to be a major center for biotechnology research and development needs to be more focused if it is to be successful.

Singapore has been aggressively promoting biomedical sciences as a new pillar of its economy, and has pledged at least $1.7 billion during the last two years to build infrastructure, train scientists and fund research and start-ups.

"It has to decide which areas it wants to put a lot of its research money into, which areas it wants to build up its own expertise and which to bring in foreign expertise," said Colman.

The scientist recommended that the city-state specialize in biological sciences, such as tissue engineering.

"If Singapore wants to actually compete, for example, with the best of the world in research in the biological sciences, my belief is that it has to focus more than it does at the moment," Colman said.

Singapore's biomedical sciences sector includes pharmaceuticals, medical devices, healthcare services and biotechnology.

Within the biotech sector, the city-state currently has bioinformatics institutes, genomics research groups as well as ES Cell's stem cell activities.

Colman said the government's new rules on human stem cell research were similar to those in the United Kingdom.

"I think they are very sensible. It's very much like Britain. It's tolerant," he said.

In June, a Singapore panel advising the government on the ethics of its biotechnology recommended a total ban on cloning people. It said that embryos should be no more than 14 days old for stem-cell research.