EU patent changes may spur stem cell research

Friday, January 16, 2015

Subject

The implications of the ECJ ruling on embryonic stem cell research.

Significance

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on December 18 reversed part of its general ban on patents for human embryonic stem (ES) cells. ES cells are capable of developing into any type of cell. Their potential therapeutic application is limitless and human ES cells could be used to treat diseases ranging from diabetes and stroke, to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Patenting not only the technology for producing human ES cell-based therapies, but the cells themselves, broadens the scope of protection and commercial application -- enabling EU member states to compete with the rest of the world.

Impacts

  • The 2014 ruling opens the door for further challenges to the general ban on human ES-cell patents of 2011.
  • The latest ruling somewhat undercuts opposition to human ES cell research on ethical grounds.
  • Removing the stigma of immorality may increase public support and funding for human ES cell research.
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