Stem Cell Research In The EU – An Old-School “Fluff”

by Malc on May 25, 2011

Following my report of the dilemma in the EU over stem cells, a typical bureaucratic “fluff” is the outcome.

The EU

Countries of the EU (Wikipedia)

Originally, a German court could not decide whether a researcher was permitted to patent a method of turning embryonic stem cells in to nerve cells to treat nerve degeneration diseases. So, they bounced it over to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The way things work there, the Advocate General give a ‘preliminary decision’, which is more often than not followed by the European Court. The Advocate General indicated that the patent should not be allowed, on moral grounds.

The repercussions of that are that expensive research will simply not be done unless the companies involved have a chance of getting their money back – via the patent. They would simply transfer outside the EU.

Within the EU, opinion on this type of embryonic stem cell research is pretty evenly divided: Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK permit it, while Austria, Denmark, France, Germany and Ireland do not.

In the event, it seems that the ECJ will dither: and say neither yes or no. The effect of this is that the research can continue within the EU, but then be patented and manufactured elsewhere, then re-imported back: protection intact.

In fact, in this rapidly developing field, this situation will be somewhat academic in a few years. Cells other than embryonic stem cells are more and more able to be persuaded to change into any cells required – removing the concerns of cells originally derived from embryonic material.

However, this type of question mark over research only serves to slow down progress in a field – stem cell research – which will save millions of lives over the coming generation or two.

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