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Genetics Policy Institute

The Genetics Policy Institute (GPI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that educates the public and promotes supportive public policy for stem cell research and other forms of cutting-edge medicine.

The institute was started in 2003 by Bernard Siegel, its current executive director, and is headquartered in Wellington, Florida. GPI’s efforts are worldwide in scope, and its officers are prominent commentators in the U.S. and international media on scientific, ethical and public policy issues pertaining to stem cell research.

GPI’s stated mission is to serve patients who suffer from a wide range of currently incurable diseases and injuries and that stand to benefit from treatments being developed through stem cell research. Certain forms of stem cell research (embryonic stem cell research and nuclear transfer research) are considered controversial and are actively opposed by organized groups. GPI works to educate the public, lawmakers and the media about the potential of the research and the public health consequences of specific governmental policies. Its core activities include meetings and symposia that bring together world-renowned scientists, patients, activists, legal experts, bioethicists and human rights scholars, and public education initiatives, which include public lectures, books and articles, and media outreach.

Bernard Siegel, GPI’s founder, is best known as the attorney who filed the landmark 2002 case seeking a guardian for the world’s first alleged human clone, “Baby Eve.” In a Florida court, Siegel challenged the claims of Clonaid, the supposed research lab of an organization called the Raëlian Movement, that they had cloned a human baby. The credibility of the Raëlians’ claim was destroyed when they refused to produce the child or to allow DNA testing to establish its lineage. Subsequently, Siegel was drawn to the issue of cellular research cloning and its role in formulating cures based on stem cell research. He initially founded the Genetics Policy Institute to help establish a legal distinction between reproductive cloning (the cloning of a whole person) and therapeutic cloning (also called nuclear transfer), a technique for creating embryonic stem cells that are genetically matched to a patient. Since then, GPI has expanded its interests to include public policy issues related to all forms of stem cell research on the U.S. state, federal and worldwide levels.

In 2003, Siegel brought a group of internationally prominent stem cell research and cloning experts, including Ian Wilmut, the Scottish scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, to New York for a meeting at the United Nations. At the time, the U.N. was considering a worldwide treaty, introduced by Costa Rica, to ban all forms of human cloning. During the meeting, “Human Cloning Issues in all its aspects,” the scientists unanimously called for a worldwide ban on human reproductive cloning because of the devastating health conditions observed in cloned animals. However, they appealed to the U.N. not to ban nuclear transfer research (therapeutic cloning), citing its importance in the development of stem cell-based cures.

In 2004, the Costa Rican treaty, which was strongly backed by the Bush administration, was formally introduced to the U.N. General Assembly. GPI played a prominent role in alerting the scientific, medical and patient advocacy communities of the pending vote. It initiated a widespread, coordinated effort on the part of numerous organizations to educate delegates about the consequences of a blanket treaty to ban research cloning along with reproductive cloning. As a result, a vote on the Costa Rican treaty was postponed for two years in order to give delegates more time to consider the issue. The decision to postpone was carried by a margin of one vote.

Despite the two-year moratorium, the Costa Rican treaty was revisited in 2005. However, facing sustained objections from Great Britain and other nations, the U.S. administration abandoned its efforts to get a binding treaty passed. The U.N. General Assembly then voted on a nonbinding resolution, calling upon all nations to “prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.” The resolution passed, but it had no enforceable effect on worldwide research; instead, it leaves the decision of whether to allow nuclear transfer in stem cell research in the hands of individual nations.

See also

California Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Royan Institute

External links

Genetics Policy Institute official website.
Reflections on the Cloning Case


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