On twenty years of progress: Letter from our director
With the help of generous philanthropists and medical collaborators, Dr. Ann Kiessling founded the Bedford Research Foundation in 1996 to address a research need that could not be federally funded — how to help men infected by HIV through tainted blood transfusions have children without infecting their wives and babies. The first “Special Program for Assisted Reproduction,” or SPAR baby was born in 1998. Ryan Schlosser, now 16 years old, visited the Bedford Research lab last summer. As of September, 2015, 246 babies SPAR babies have been born with all moms and babies testing negative for HIV.
In 1999, BRF responded to a new research need that could not be federally funded — the derivation of stem cells from unfertilized human eggs. Bedford Research scientists spear-headed the world’s first ethics advisory board and medical team charged with the task of developing the “gold standard” for women volunteering to donate their eggs for research.
To be clinically feasible, at least 10% of activated, unfertilized human eggs must successfully develop into stem cells. When initial experiments failed to reach this goal, BRF scientists collaborated with colleagues in Greece to discover what genes must be activate in unfertilized eggs to reach the 10% efficiency needed. Our results, published in three landmark reports, have led to the information needed to resume the research. As described in the cover story, the work will need eggs donated by women for research, a controversial topic being considered by BRF ethicists.
Human egg research must be privately funded. Due to the National Institutes of Health budget no federal dollars can be used to study activated human eggs, or parthenote stem cells. Bedford Research is uniquely positioned to push this field forward, and needs to add two additional scientists in 2016 to optimize progress. Progress depends entirely on private donations.
Check out more news in the BRF Fall 2015 Newsletter.