Stem cell pioneer Professor Sir Ian Wilmut and creator of Dolly the Sheep, is to speak on life after Dolly at a public lecture in Cambridge this evening.

The Director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh is best known as the leader of the research group that in 1996 first cloned a mammal from an adult somatic cell, a Finnish Dorset lamb named Dolly. He was granted an OBE in 1999 for services to embryo development. In December 2007 it was announced that he would be knighted in the 2008 New Year Honours.

Professor Wilmut says the research on new methods of producing stem cells used in cloning has led to “extraordinary new opportunities” to study the molecular mechanisms that cause inherited diseases such as schizophrenia and some forms of cancer.

He states: “These techniques  make it possible to produce, from a patient, cells that are equivalent to those early in their life. If the patient has an inherited disease  their cells may be compared with equivalent cells from a healthy donor in a search for differences associated with the disease. It may then be possible to use this new understanding to devise tests to identify the first drugs that are able to prevent those symptoms.”

He adds that growing cells in the laboratory may provide important new approaches to the safety testing of new drugs, which could greatly increase the efficiency of drug development and reduce the costs involved.

Lindsay Chura, external officer of the Gates Scholars Council which organised the lecture, said: "Professor Wilmut’s pioneering research has forever changed the landscape of science We are excited to hear about the latest advancements in regenerative medicine from one of the world’s most eminent scientists. Very few breakthroughs in science have garnered the level of attention that Dolly’s birth received, and the impact of Professor Wilmut’s research stretches far beyond the scientific community."

Professor Wilmut’s lecture, entitled ‘Cloning, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine’ is part of the Gates Distinguished Lecture series and will take place between 6 and 7.30pm at the Cambridge Union Society.

The event is open to the public.

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