A group of high profile stem cell scientists warns today that a proposed ban on embryonic stem cell patents in Europe could spell disaster for regenerative therapies and other applications of the cells, which can produce any cell type in the body.
On 10 March, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice recommended that the court ban patents involving human embryonic stem cells. Judge Yves Bot argued that commercial patents for human ES cells would amount to industrial use of human emybros, which “would be contrary to ethics and public policy”. (For a complete rundown, see Nature’s original coverage of Bot’s opinion.)
In a letter published in Nature today, Austin Smith, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research in Cambridge, UK and 12 other European stem cell scientists call Bot’s opinion “a blow to years of effort to derive biomedical applications from embryonic stem cells”.
“If implemented, European discoveries could be translated into applications elsewhere, at a potential cost to the European citizen,” the letter adds.
An opinion from the 13 judges comprising the European Court of Justice’s Grand Chamber is expected in the next few months.
Image of human ES cell culture courtesy Wikimedia Commons