Two researchers, professor Bo Samuelsson and Annika Tibell, came to be a part of the committee, which gave the research teams in Gothenburg and Stockholm some influence over the routine practices of policy-making regarding XTP. We will get back to this in the
chapter ―The parliamentarian committee‖, but first we are going to look closer at what happened to the research when the moratorium came and later, when the committee started its work. Was there any XTP research going on? What impact did the researchers have on policy-making regarding XTP?
Sweden was not the only country that imposed a moratorium on XTP during the 1990s;
internationally most clinical trials stopped. This was during a period when stem cell research was on the rise, making it difficult to get research funding for XTP. Professor Bo Samuelsson became aware of this.
Bo Samuelsson: ―Our first project worked out very well. I think we recorded 70 original works, three monographs and three or four documentary films.
We were praised by EU officials. Then we submitted another application. It was the best application I had written in my life. And we got turned down because stem cells were on the agenda instead. You see how different currents in science suddenly stop something that probably could have been quite good. Then it takes 10, 15 years before it gets started again.‖
There were no opportunities to obtain substantial research funding for XTP in the latter half of the 1990s. The research teams had difficulties retaining researchers, who moved on to other research. Professor Bo Samuelsson became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg in 1997, a post he held until 2003. But individual researchers and smaller research teams continued the XTP research in the laboratory. Professor Annika Tibell continued to have some form of XTP research in Stockholm.
Annika Tibell: ―Less funding means that I work more in the clinic. But my research has taken some other avenues. I carried out some xeno research some years later. But it was obvious that the large projects vanished with this discussion. The major funding and support for xeno research disappeared. We had received financial support and access to pig cells from Imutran, and that support disappeared, of course, when Imutran disappeared. The opportunities were affected. It was impossible to find greater funding for xeno research for a while. Maybe it was seen as controversial, but it was also viewed as unnecessary because stem cells would solve the problems. It just so happens that there are trends in research, what is in fashion at the time.‖
Professor Bo Samuelsson paints a similar picture of the research field. The major research foundations were not interested in supporting this research, and at the same time the XTP companies, such as Imutran, could not stay in business when no one requested their products. Consequently, the promising technoscientific complexes of big research teams at the universities and their relationships to other international researchers and companies
disappeared or diminished (c.f. Pickstone, 2000). XTP research became more basic national research, far from clinical trials. A similar picture of the research comes from Professor Erna Möller: “We followed this group for quite some time [patients who received transplants]. We thought it was interesting because the problem was not as easy as we originally thought”. At Lund University, XTP research continued into 2000s.
Håkan Widner: ―I had two graduate students who earned their PhDs in 2001 and 2004. We started out with EU funding in 1997 to 2001, then we had some extra grants here. So we studied the feasibility of doing this to patients and trying to understand the mechanisms, rejection, also to understand the biology, so that the nerve cells fit.‖ […]
Kristofer Hansson: ―Your graduate students did the continued work in this field after they earned their PhDs?‖
Håkan Widner: ―Not really. We still do some XTP work, but it is about how the immune system works in the brain. Lena [one of two PhDs] is interested in inflammatory mechanisms in the brain and other diseases, for example depression. That is a direct spin-off effect, she learned, immunology and inflammation. It probably has quite a large role in many other diseases.
Xenotransplantation has become a very good model for acute inflammatory response in the brain. If you learn to understand how it works, you can understand how inflammation is controlled and regulated in other diseases.
Lena would probably not be doing what she‘s doing now if she had not done this. So, even if we do not have transplantation of pig nerve cells on the research agenda, the research on inflammation has benefited a lot.‖
Kristofer Hansson: ―So it is a spin-off from what happened in the 1990s?‖
Håkan Widner: ―Yes, and the other researcher is now a neurosurgeon and is currently working in London. He has an eye for neuroinflammation in, for example, the surgeries he does now. He has done some research on controlling the inflammation in the brain. The XTP research has by no means been wasted. We have learned very much about how the biology works.‖
The XTP research generated knowledge that is currently used in other areas. The quote also points out that the research continued after the moratorium on clinical XTP trials. But this kind of research was not framed as a policy problem; it was simply basic research about human biology. However, it was research that was still influenced by the discussion about XTP. There were, for example, no plans to take the XTP research to clinical tests.
The researchers‘ framing of XTP as a policy problem continued in the late 1990s and 2000s, but in other arenas. For Professor Annika Tibell, that meant that the policy process around XTP became an international issue.
Annika Tibell: ―There have been no clinical trials in Sweden since the early 1990s. However, I am in the international xeno-organisation, on the board and the Ethics Committee. I have been involved in assessing the clinical studies being conducted now and helped to put out guidelines. Basic requirements, which we believe are necessary in order to move forward in clinical trials. I am active in terms of policy making and regulatory affairs.
That has become my sphere along with ethics.‖
The problematic questions about XTP have become more international, and Professor Annika Tibell has been working more in this arena than nationally. The quotation can be interpreted as meaning that when XTP research in Sweden was no longer a reality, the international arena became more important. Policy questions continued to develop, and there were also opportunities for those researchers who did not want to abandon XTP research.