The United Kingdom risks losing its world-leading position in human embryo research if suggestions for a 30-fold increase in license fees are taken forward, British researchers claimed this week.

The UK government's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), is proposing to raise its fees for processing research project licenses from the present £200 (USD $367) to £6000 (USD $11,000). It claims the change is necessary to comply with government rules that regulation should be wholly paid for by those being regulated.

But UK researchers say that the increase is not well justified. They say that any attempt to increase fees will stifle research in emerging areas, such as stem cell research, and vital work on freezing and storing human embryos.

"We recognize that there are some administrative costs due in processing a license, but all our license applications will have already gone through local ethics committee approval...

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