As reported by the BBC, The European Court of Justice has banned the issuing of patents for embryonic stem cell research.
The research has been banned on ethical grounds as it involves the destruction of human embryos.
Stem cell research involves extracting human embryonic stem cells from surplus vitro fertilised eggs donated after fertility treatment. The cells are then modified and injected into patients. These cells are a useful tool for repairing and regenerating diseased organs and tissues.
The European Court has stated that “scientific research entailing the use of human embryos cannot access the protection of patent law” and that it is unethical to profit from what it sees as the fundamentals of human life.
The case was originally raised by Greenpeace against scientist, Oliver Brustle, who was investigating the use of stem cells to treat neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.
So, whilst there are no restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research in Europe, it will now be extremely difficult to get patent approval for any new discoveries that are made as a result of this research.
The ruling is a real blow to the commercial development of such products within the European Union. The ruling effectively means that any stem cell research technique invented by scientists working in the EU can now be easily and legally copied by rival scientists.
Lastly, there is also a fear that this type of research could be pushed elsewhere as Pharmaceutical companies in the EU will be less inclined to seek involvement as they are now unable to safeguard their investment.
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