Scientists oppose European stem cell patent ban

 Great article about leading stem cell scientists stating that the ECJ Advocate’s recommendation to ban stem cell patents will block development of stem cell-based therapeutics in Europe.  Here are the highlights from the article:

Scientists oppose European stem cell patent ban

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON | Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:05pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) – Research scientists hit out on Wednesday at a European Court of Justice (ECJ) case they say could block development of embryonic stem cell-based therapies in Europe.

The ECJ’s advocate general has said all patents on embryonic stem cell-related technologies should be banned on moral grounds, but in a letter in the journal Nature and during a briefing in London, leading stem cell scientists said that could spell disaster for drug firms seeking treatments for conditions such as blindness and spinal chord injuries.

“If the ECJ was to follow this opinion, the reality is that all patents in Europe that relate to human embryonic stem cells will be eliminated,” said Austin Smith of the Center for Stem Cell Research in Cambridge, one of letter’s 13 signatories.

“This will put Europe at a huge disadvantage.”

Smith and his fellow signatories — who include leading stem cell researchers from all over Europe — argued that patenting is a key step in the development of new medical treatments.

Without the protection of patents, they said, drug companies will not invest in the research or in the cell manufacturing technologies needed to develop stem cell therapies.

“Innovative companies must have patent protection as an incentive to become active in Europe,” they wrote.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) said a move to ban patents “will preclude investment in potentially life-saving treatments.”

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President of the EPO says Unitary Patent Still on Track

Before answering this question, I must say that one thing has always astonished me: while Europe, or at least quite a number of EU Member States, was able to adopt a common currency after a relatively short period of negotiation considering the importance and sensitivity of the issue, it seems much more difficult to obtain a common patent with a single litigation system even though this is an absolute economic and legal necessity.

First came the opinion of the European Court of Justice regarding the patent litigation system on 8 March. One could have been disappointed that the Court concluded that the project was incompatible with the EU Treaty and have feared this result could negatively impact the discussions about the further Unitary Patent. But happily this has not been the case as the EU Council, with a group of 25 Member States, took a landmark decision pushing the enhanced cooperation for the Unitary Patent, on 10 March.

This decision represents a major step forward for European innovative industry, particularly the SME’s! Of course, to respond to the ECJ concerns, policy makers will have to be creative and a transitory solution for the litigation system will certainly have to be found. From the EPO side, I can assure you that all the necessary steps will be duly prepared in order to allow the rapid implementation of the Unitary Patent.

Benoît Battistelli

President

Full EPO Blog Post