When the Stem Cell Network launched in 2001, its most pressing goal was to address the policy vacuum that was constraining stem cell research in Canada. SCN and its members provided credible, research-based evidence and recommendations that were critical in the development of Canada’s regulatory landscape for stem cell research.
At the outset of the new millennium, Canada had a policy vacuum regarding stem cell research. There were no guidelines or policies specifically designed to fully address the concerns of researchers or the public regarding funding in the field, and the diversity of strongly held moral and religious beliefs made resolving this gap especially urgent. Not only did this void pose problems for Canadians interested in where the field was heading, but many scientists were also worried that the lack of oversight left them operating in the dark.
The Stem Cell Network quickly emerged as the voice of Canada’s stem cell researchers and went to work contributing to a policy framework for advancing stem cell research in Canada. To deliver its message to political leaders and to the public, the Network organized presentations on Parliament Hill, expert testimony to the Standing Committees of the House of Commons and the Senate, letters and briefing notes to every MP and senator and participated in extensive engagement with the media, including over 300 appearances by Network researchers in the national press, TV and radio.
SCN was also very active in developing policy recommendations regarding a national umbilical cord blood bank to accept, store and distribute donations of this stem cell-rich material. The Network coordinated workshops with policy analysts in 2005 and 2006 and supported the development of a national bank in a 2007 policy statement. SCN researchers worked with Canadian Blood Services to develop consent forms for the donation process. Thanks in part to the Network’s vital contributions, Canada’s National Public Cord Blood Bank began accepting donations in 2013.
Establishing a policy framework was a necessary first step to the Stem Cell Network’s ultimate goal of moving stem cells from the lab bench to the bedside. By engaging researchers, legal scholars and policy makers, the Stem Cell Network helped Canada put functional policies in place that reflected the values of the majority of Canadians while still allowing researchers to conduct their work and built on that success to ensure that policy kept up with science.
- 2001-02 Annual Report, p. 7
- 2007-08 Annual Report, p. 23
- 2008-09 Annual Report, p. 4
- 2009-10 Annual Report, p. 9
- 2009-10 Annual Report, p. 12