Embryo Research Licensing Committee (ERLC) 2015 - 2018 triennium

Embryo Research Licensing Committee

The NHMRC Embryo Research Licensing Committee (NHMRC Licensing Committee) was established by the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 and is a Principal Committee of the NHMRC. The Licensing Committee oversees the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002 (RIHE Act) and the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2002 (PHCR Act). It regulates research activities that involve the use of human embryos created by assisted reproductive technology (ART) or by other means. There are strong penalties for non-compliance with the legislation. The legislation also prohibits human cloning for reproductive purposes and a range of other practices relating to reproductive technology.


The Licensing Committee has prescribed functions under the national regulatory framework established by the RIHE Act and the PHCR Act.

The functions of the NHMRC Licensing Committee are to:

  • consider applications for licences to conduct research involving human embryos;
  • issue (subject to conditions) or not issue such licences;
  • maintain a publicly available database containing information about licences issued;
  • monitor licensed activities and ensure compliance with the legislation through the appointment of inspectors and take necessary enforcement action, such as cancelling or suspending licences;
  • report to the Parliament of Australia on the operation of the RIHE Act and the licences issued under this Act; and
  • perform such other functions as are conferred on it by the RIHE Act or any other law.

Current membership of the NHMRC Licensing Committee

Membership of the NHMRC Licensing Committee is prescribed under Section 16 of the RIHE Act, and the Minister is required to consult with the States and Territories before appointing members. Membership comprises individuals with expertise in research ethics, research, assisted reproductive technology, law, consumer health issues, the regulation of assisted reproductive technology, and embryology.

NHMRC Licensing Committee - Declaration of Interest

Professor Constantine (Con) Michael AO

A person with expertise in the regulation of assisted reproductive technology, Chairperson

Professor Dianne Nicol

A member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee

Associate Professor Sheryl de Lacey

A person with expertise in research ethics

Professor Martin Pera

A person with expertise in a relevant area of research

Dr Anne Clark

A person with expertise in assisted reproductive technology

Associate Professor Bernadette Richards

A person with expertise in a relevant area of law

Mr Robert Pask

A person with expertise in consumer health issues relating to disability and disease

Position Vacant

A person with expertise in consumer issues relating to assisted reproductive technology

Professor Patrick Tam A person with expertise in embryology

Members of Embryo Research Licensing Committee (ERLC)

Professor Constantine (Con) Michael AO - Chairperson

Professor Con Michael AO is Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Western Australia (UWA). In 2015, Professor Michael was appointed as Adjunct Professor of Medical Education in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University.

Professor Michael is the current Chair of the Western Australian Board of the Medical Board of Australia, Director of the Australian Medical Council, a member of various state and national medical committees and Chair of the Reproductive Technology Council of Western Australia and a former Advisor on medical workforce to the Western Australia Department of Health.

Among his numerous awards, Professor Michael was named an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2001 for service to medicine, particularly in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology; as a contributor to the administration of the profession nationally and internationally; and medical education. In 2001, Professor Michael was also awarded the Centenary Medal Award.

Professor Dianne Nicol

Dianne Nicol is a Professor at the Law Faculty at the University of Tasmania in Australia and Director of the Centre for Law and Genetics (CLG), which is housed in the Law Faculty. The broad theme of the CLG’s research is the regulation of biotechnology, human genetics and stem cell technology. Dianne’s research particularly focuses on the legal and social issues associated with the commercialisation of genetic knowledge and patenting of genetic inventions.

She is currently the lead chief investigator on two Australian Research Council funded projects, one on the role of law in regulating personalised medicine and the other on material transfer agreements in the era of open science. Dianne’s previous research includes a recently completed project on patenting biotechnological inventions, aimed at understanding the changing roles patenting, licensing and collaboration in innovation in complex areas of technology like biotechnology.

In 2012 Dianne was appointed to a three member expert panel to review pharmaceutical patenting in Australia. Dianne also currently holds the role of Chair of Academic Senate at the University of Tasmania. She has served on the University’s Social Sciences Human Research Ethics Committee, and held the role of Chair of the University’s Animal Research Ethics Committee for 5 years.

Professor Sheryl de Lacey

Professor Sheryl de Lacey is Professor of Nursing at Flinders University where she teaches bioethics and professional conduct. She is a co-author of the book Ethics and Law for Australian Nurses. She specialises in Infertility and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and social ethics. She has a clinical background in this field of Nursing and a strong background in consultancy and advisory roles to National and State Government bodies concerned with regulating ART practice. Her research focus is infertility and its social effects, the impact of ART on patients, the impact of social policy on ART patients and practice, and bioethical issues arising in ART. She has completed a major qualitative study of patients' decisions for frozen supernumerary embryos and a major population study of attitudes towards biological donation including organ donation and embryo donation. She was deputy chair of the SA Council on Reproductive Technology, a member of the National Bioethics Consultative Committee, has been a member of several Research Ethics Committees and is Chair of the Animal Welfare Committee at Flinders University. She was recently a member of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of South Australia. She is Coordinator of the Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB) group.

Professor Martin Pera

Professor Martin Pera serves as Program Leader for Stem Cells Australia, the Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Sciences. He received his BA in English Language and Literature from the College of William and Mary, and his PhD in Pharmacology from George Washington University, and undertook postdoctoral training in the UK at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. He held independent research positions at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Department of Zoology at Oxford University before joining Monash University in 1996.  In 2006 he moved to Los Angeles to take up a position as the Founding Director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of Southern California.  He returned to Australia in 2011.

Professor Pera’s research interests include the cell biology of human pluripotent stem cells, early human development, and germ cell tumours.  He was among a small number of researchers who pioneered the isolation and characterisation of pluripotent stem cells from human germ cell tumours of the testis, work that provided an important framework for the development of human embryonic stem cells.  His laboratory at Monash University was the second in the world to isolate embryonic stem cells from the human blastocyst, and the first to describe their differentiation into somatic cells in vitro.  His current research is focused on the extrinsic regulation of self-renewal and pluripotency, heterogeneity in pluripotent stem cell populations, and neural specification of pluripotent stem cells.  He has provided extensive advice to state, national and international regulatory authorities on the scientific background to human stem cell research.  He and his colleagues are currently leading a campaign against the provision of unproven autologous stem cell treatments in Australia.  He serves on the Editorial Board of Cell Stem Cell, Stem Cell Reports, Stem Cells, and Stem Cell Research, and on the Steering Committee of the International Stem Cell Initiative.

Professor Pera has been a member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) since its inception in 2002.  He has been a Board member and Clerk of Society since 2015.  He also serves on its Standards Committee, and is also a member of the Audit Committee, and the Chair of the Membership Committee.

Associate Professor Bernadette Richards

Bernadette Richards comes from the Law School at the University of Adelaide and is an active researcher in the areas of Tort Law, Medical Law, and Bioethics. She has written a text book on Tort Law (Tort Law Principles,) has contributed to a collaborative text, Health Law in Australia and has recently completed a new text, Medical Law and Ethics: A Problem Based Approach. Bernadette is Deputy Chair of a major clinical research ethics committee, Associate Editor (Law) of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry and provided advice to the Minister of Health as a member of the South Australian Council of Reproductive Technology. She is the Director of the Centre for Law, Ethics and Society (CELS, an international collaboration with the Cardiff University) and Deputy Director, Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law and Religion (RUSSLR). Bernadette is the President of the Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL). Her current research projects include a major grant project considering innovative surgery, the misapplication of the Australian Human Tissue Acts to posthumous donation of reproductive material and the role of ethical dialogue in popular entertainment.

Mr Robert Pask

Mr Robert Pask is an advocate for people living with disability and chronic illness. He established a peer advocacy program for people living with MS that has developed over five years. This program uses a unique model of mentoring and networking that advocates use to progress their key issues.

Mr Pask is the Director of the Consumer Health Forum and a current member of the Committee of Management of Chronic Illness Alliance. He was also a former member of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council and Committee of Management for Disability Discrimination Legal Service.

Through his voluntary involvement with boards he has brought the growing cost of healthcare for people with chronic illness using pharmaceuticals and other health programs, into focus.

In 2013 Robert was the recipient of the National Disability award for “Excellence in Advocacy and Rights Promotion Award”. He also received Huntington’s Victoria 2013 Advocacy Award.

Professor Patrick Tam

Patrick Tam is the Deputy Director and Head of the Embryology Research Unit at the Children's Medical Research Institute, NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and Professor in the Discipline of Medicine, Sydney Medical School of the University of Sydney.

Professor Patrick Tam is internationally recognized for his scientific contribution to the understanding of early mammalian development. His research focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of body patterning during mouse development and the biology of epiblast stem cells. He pioneered the application of micromanipulation and embryo culture for analysing mouse embryos and examining the development of the head and embryonic gut. The embryological analysis undertaken by his team has enabled the construction of a series of fate-maps revealing the organization of the basic body plan of the early embryo. The knowledge of cell differentiation during early embryogenesis laid the foundation for directing the differentiation of stem cells into clinically useful cell types for regenerative medicine. In recognition of his research achievement, Professor Tam was awarded the President’s Medal of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Cell and Developmental Biology, and elected as Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Society of London.