The European Competitiveness (Internal market, Industry and Research) Council has met, in an extraordinary meeting, to debate the proposed Seventh Framework programme (FP7) and, by a majority, has reached an agreement to support the draft FP7 proposal.One of the main issues halting progress of the proposal was whether or not embryonic stem cell research should be funded under FP7.The European Commission and the European Parliament had reached an agreement that FP7 would be funded under, following the same strict rules as had been created for the FP6 programme (see news story).With some clarifications, the Council has now also agreed on that compromise position.
As with FP6, three categories of human embryonic research will be excluded from FP7: research into human cloning, research that would result in the modification of the germ-line (thus making changes hereditable), and the creation of embryos solely for research purposes or for the derivation of stem cells.FP7 will not fund the research step where the embryo is destroyed (the procurement phase), but down-stream research will be considered under strict controls.No activity will be funded that is forbidden in all Member States.Research proposals will only be considered for funding from Member States where the research is legal.All research proposals involving embryonic stem cells must undergo local or national ethics review, scientific review that proves that the use of human embryonic stem cells is necessary, and an ethics review at the European Commission level.Only if the proposal passes all of these reviews will it be presented to the European Commissions Regulatory Committee for review and possible approval.Each proposal will be considered on a case-by-case basis.According to Commissioner Janez Potonik, the proposals that have been funded under FP6 would also have been funded under todays agreement.Nothing substantial has been changed from the FP6 method of working; these debates have served as clarification.
The FP7 proposal now will be returned to the European Parliament for its second reading, tentatively scheduled for November.Commissioners are hopeful that the FP7 proposal will be approved this year so that funding can begin in early 2007.Additionally, Commission Potonik noted that the European Commission is committed to the creation of a European stem cell registry which could help negate the need to duplicate embryonic stem cell lines.