On 2 September 2004, Singapore parliament passed new legislation which regulates human cloning and other related activities. The Human Cloning and Other Prohibited Practices Act (hereinafter referred to as "The Act") came into force on 1 October 2004. The Act is adapted from various provisions in the Australian Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002.

The Act enables researchers in Singapore to conduct stem cell research but only within the confines of what are considered as being morally acceptable boundaries. Crucially, the Act does not prohibit the creation of human embryos up to the 14th day of development by various methods and harvesting of the stem cells from such embryos for research purposes.

Essentially, there are three main prohibitions which are as follows:

  1. developing a human embryo for more than 14 days where the embryo was created other than by fertilisation of a human egg by human sperm;
  2. developing a human embryo outside the body of a woman for more than 14 days; and
  3. collecting a viable human embryo from the body of a woman

Other subsidiary prohibited uses of embryos include: the placement of any cloned human embryos in a human or animal body; the import or export of cloned embryos; and the commercial trading of human eggs, sperm and embryos.

With regard to stem cells, whilst the Act prohibits the commercial trading of human eggs, sperm and embryos, it is silent with regard to the commercial sale of stem cells. Thus, it could be inferred from the Act that the sale of stem cells, created and harvested in Singapore is permissible.

The maximum penalty imposed for anyone who contravenes the various prohibitions under this Act is a fine up to SGD 100,000, or 10 years in prison, or both.

Singapore has identified life sciences as one of the key pillars of its manufacturing sector and is positioning itself as a global biotech hub. The introduction of the Act is in keeping with the Government’s initiative to provide for a relatively permissible environment for stem cell research. Thus, Singapore will continue in its role as one of the key-players in the area of stem cell research and further growth of Singapore’s stem cell industry is expected.

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.