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Professor Inder Verma, one of America's foremost experts on genetics whose research encompasses stem cell research, is convinced that it is an area that can open up new vistas for Indian scientists.
Verma, who was born in Punjab and has been associated with the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, California, for the past 27 years, declared that embryonic stem cell research is "an area where Indian scientists can compete with the best because our political and social situation is such that people are willing to work on stem cells even from aborted foetuses".
The controversial stem cell research from human embryos acquired a global profile when US President George Bush announced on August 9 that the federal government would provide partial funding for such research.
In his first presidential address to the American people, Bush said federal grants may be used to conduct research solely on stem cells that have been harvested from embryos left over at fertility clinics.
During his presidential campaign, Bush, a strong opponent of abortion, had said that he would oppose embryonic stem cell research and thus his decision was seen as a betrayal by some conservatives.
Verma, who visits India regularly and has proposed setting up centres of excellence in Punjab to conduct innovative bio-medical research, said it was news to him that cell lines were available in India. "This is the first time that I have heard that there were cell lines in India. I don't know of anybody in India who had a human stem line.
Verma, however, said he had been informed that Reliance Industries was "setting up a stem cell research facility".
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