Two out of the three licence holders permitted to carry out animal-human embryo research in the UK have failed to secure funding for projects.
It was disclosed last night that funding bodies had turned down their grant applications and the researchers involved have speculated that they may have been rejected on moral grounds.
However the funding bodies say they turned down proposals because of competition from other projects.
Projects using adult stem cells have proven to be significantly more successful than research using stem cells from embryos.
The third licence holder for animal-human embryo research, Professor Justin St John of Warwick University, has not yet submitted a grant proposal.
Professor Stephen Minger of King’s College London had his grant application rejected.
In a statement in the Independent he said: “People reviewing grants may be looking at this from a completely different moral perspective and how much that has influenced people’s perception about whether this should be funded, we don’t know.”
Professor Minger has not started any research since he was issued his licence by the Government watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
He comments: “The problem has been a lack of funding. We haven’t been able to buy equipment, £80,000 to £90,000-worth.”
“We put in a grant proposal last year but it wasn’t successful and we’re dead in the water. We’re discussing whether it is worth the time to re-submit our application,” he added.
The creation of animal-human embryos was legalised less than a year ago and involves fusing human cells and animal eggs together to create an embryo from which stem cells can be harvested.
Dr Lyle Armstrong of Newcastle University, the second licence holder rejected by the funding bodies, has so far created 278 animal-human embryos from human cells and cow eggs.
Many leading stem cell scientists have rejected the path of embryonic stem cell research in favour of other routes they deem more likely to lead to new treatments.
Despite ten years of embryo research not a single clinical treatment has so far been developed. By contrast, research using adult stem cells – which does not destroy embryos – has resulted in over 70 treatments.
An opinion poll commissioned last year by The Christian Institute showed that over 60 per cent of the public are against the creation of animal-human embryos.