Egg Donor Program History & Overview
The BRF Egg Donor program was originally designed in 2001 by an Ethics Advisory Board chaired by Professor Ron Green, Dartmouth College (Hastings Center Report, 2002). Since it was the first program in the world to recruit women specifically for the purpose of providing eggs for stem cell research, the Ethics Advisory Board critically examined every step of the procedure in detail. The goal was to allow women to donate eggs for research only if the process was deemed safe for them to undertake. To ensure the independence of the egg donors, only women unknown to the researchers, who answered a newspaper ad, were considered. The women undergo extensive psychological and physical examinations and a mild hormone stimulation to avoid the hyperstimulation syndromes associated with assisted reproduction attempts. They must be located in the greater Boston area, or willing to live within the greater Boston area for a period of at least two weeks. To date, approximately two dozen women have donated eggs, with most willing to undergo more than one cycle of egg collection. The women are compensated for effort, travel and childcare expenses.
The Egg Donor Program provides human eggs for research activities that fall within the Foundation’s guidelines for this program. In September, 2004, Foundation scientists conducted a limited set of research on human eggs with the goal of deriving stem cells from eggs not fertilized by sperm.
The Foundation’s ability to support research is entirely dependent upon available funding. When funds are available, the Foundation’s Scientific Committee will review applications for research projects and fund those deemed most meritorious. The review process follows the general guidelines of the National Institutes of Health peer review process.
BRF’s goal is to advance the research as rapidly as possible under strict ethical oversight.