Update October 18, 2011: On October 18, 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a ruling in case C-34/10 on the patentability of technologies that use human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). This interpretation of European law to exclude the patenting of inventions based on hESCs in the European Union may impact the development of new therapies from a critical avenue of medical research. The ISSCR reiterates its statement of April below in support of hESC research and policies that promote the responsible development of new therapies.
Update 27 April, 2011: European stem cell scientists expressed concerns about the impact of a possible prohibition on European patents for techniques using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in a letter published in Nature (April 28). EuroStemCell, a consortium of European stem cell researchers, presents the letter and invites readers to sign on.
Earlier this month, the ISSCR issued the statement below in support of hESC research and policies that promote the responsible development of new therapies.
Posted April 12, 2011:
The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is the primary international organization of stem cell researchers, representing 3800 scientists, ethicists and clinicians. The ISSCR is concerned that statements within a March 10, 2011 Opinion of Advocate General M. Yves Bot from the Court of Justice of the European Union may adversely affect the development of policies in the European Union and impede the development of new therapies from human embryonic stem cell research and related avenues of medical research.
The most rigorous and current scientific and medical information indicates the need to pursue all forms of stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to improve the understanding and treatment of currently untreatable diseases. There is broad consensus in the international scientific and medical research communities, and in most developed countries, that human embryonic stem cell research represents one of the most promising areas of biomedicine. While different countries regulate human embryonic stem cell research in different ways based on their unique legislative and cultural traditions, there is also broad international agreement on the standards by which human embryonic stem cell research can be performed ethically. In 2006, the ISSCR published guidelines that reflect this consensus and promote responsible, transparent and uniform practices worldwide. The ISSCR urges all countries to permit human embryonic stem cell research conducted under rigorous and transparent ethical oversight to accelerate progress toward understanding disease and identifying new treatments.
The ISSCR recognizes that protections of intellectual property rights are critical to all branches of medical research including human embryonic stem cell research. Protection of intellectual property is crucial to the development of techniques, drugs and devices for the better understanding, detection and treatment of disease. The ISSCR is concerned that excluding products or technologies based on embryonic stem cell research from intellectual property protection will preclude investment in potentially life-saving treatments, and curtail the engagement of both publicly and privately funded stem cell research.
The ISSCR strongly supports the broad international scientific and medical consensus that the scientific and medical information gained from human embryonic stem cells is essential in a comprehensive research strategy aimed at discovering the root causes of disease and developing the breakthrough medicines of the future. Public policy that facilitates socially responsible research and development is in the best interest of patients worldwide.
European Union Court of Justice press release
The International Society for Stem Cell Research is an independent, nonprofit membership organization established to promote and foster the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells, to encourage the general field of research involving stem cells and to promote professional and public education in all areas of stem cell research and application.