Science  14 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5844, pp. 1479d
DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5844.1479d

For nearly a decade, Bernat Soria Escoms, 56, has been trying to turn embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells for treating diabetes, most recently at his lab at the Andalusian Center for Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Seville, Spain. In July, Spain's President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero appointed him to join the Cabinet as minister of health and consumer affairs. The ministry, based in Madrid, also controls much of Spain's $2 billion biomedical research budget.

Q: You have said you were surprised by the job offer. Was it a hard decision?

Yes, but if you say no, you can never again criticize the government.

Q: Do you miss your lab?

The Council of Ministers meeting ends at noon on Friday, and I then take the fast train to Seville. I am in the lab Friday afternoon and evening and on Saturday. If the minister of culture goes to exhibitions and the theater [to stay current in the arts], I can go to the lab.

Q: When will stem cell research have a measurable impact on doctors and patients in Spain?

Very soon, if you consider stem cells as a broad concept including adult stem cells. In the coming weeks, I will announce a program for clinical research on cell therapies for 12 diseases, including complications from diabetes, cardiopathy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy. For embryonic stem cells, we are still at the level of basic research.

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