Regulating the future: Model policies for emerging stem cell research activities, including research on gene-edited and reconstituted embryos

Ubaka Ogbogu, LLB, BL, LLM, SJD, University of Alberta

It’s been 14 years since Canada passed legislation governing research on human embryos. As it stands, the legislation has not kept pace with the science. Two areas not covered by the legislation and posing pressing questions about their legality and how they fit into current governance frameworks, for instance, are the creation and use of genetically modified human embryos for research purposes and the patterning of human-induced pluripotent stem cells in a manner that may resemble post-implantation embryos.

Ubaka Ogbogu of the University of Alberta is assessing whether Canada’s regulatory framework adequately and appropriately addresses and balances the promotion of scientific and clinical progress with other key policy imperatives. His work will answer two key questions: how, if at all, should Canadian regulations regarding embryo and related research be updated to reflect current research realities and scientific advances; and what specific rules and governance mechanisms are needed to ensure the ethical conduct of embryo-based research activities? Professor Ogbogu brought together a multi-disciplinary policy workshop to develop a consensus-based model policy and governance framework together with policy briefing notes for specific audiences, including legislators, media and the public.

This research contributes to much-needed national and international consideration of pressing issues in stem cell research that are currently testing the boundaries of Canada’s legal and policy framework. The end result will provide guidance to policy makers as they grapple with these complex issues.

Professor Ogbogu’s research project is part of The 2016 Impact Research Agreement Program which provides $1.54M for 17 projects that span clinical translation, commercialization and public policy.  A total of 27 investigators (17 Principal Investigators and 10 Co-investigators) at 15 research institutions are benefitting and more than 60 trainees are engaged. Diseases such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, and kidney disease are the subject of study. Commercialization topics include 3D printing of neural tissues, and the scalable production of engineered micro tissues.