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12:00 AM
 | 
Oct 31, 2011
 |  BioCentury  |  Politics, Policy & Law

Stem cell workaround in EU

Working around Europe's human embryonic stem cells patent decision

The sky isn't falling for embryonic stem cell technologies in Europe. Despite a broad ruling by the European Court of Justice that products derived from embryonic stem cells cannot be patented, the scientific complexity of turning such cells into products should provide a high barrier to competition.

Additionally, new techniques that avoid embryo destruction, along with iPS and adult-derived stem cell sources, are not affected by the ruling and provide patentable avenues for developing stem cell-based therapies.

Patent attorneys and industry executives contacted by BioCentury also noted companies have patent protection outside Europe, while companies have the option of protecting their research as trade secrets instead of patenting.

The ECJ ruled in Oliver Bruestle v. Greenpeace e.V.on Oct. 18. Greenpeace was challenging the validity of a German patent held by Bruestle covering the isolation, purification and processes for producing neural precursor cells from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and their use to treat neural defects.

In its decision, the court cited Directive 98/44/EC of the European Parliament, which covers the legal protection of biotechnological inventions. Article 6(2)(c) of the directive says the use of human embryos for...

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