Top EU lawyer clears way to stem-cell patent ruling

July 17, 2014
A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can potentially be patented, a key EU legal chief said

A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can potentially be patented, a key EU legal chief said Thursday.

In an opinion of huge interest for biotechnology companies investing in stem-cell research, Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon said such eggs did not meet the definition of what constituted a human embryo.

Cruz Villalon recommended that the European Court of Justice should therefore find that they do not come under EU rules which deny patents on eggs which could develop into a human embryo.

The ECJ is Europe's top court on questions of EU law and regularly publishes opinions by its senior lawyers on pending cases.

The court mostly follows such recommendations.

Cruz Villalon was commenting on a case brought by International Stem Cell Corporation against the UK Intellectual Property Office for refusing to grant it two patents.

The British authorities had argued that since the eggs involved were active and developing, even if not fertilised by male sperm, then European Union law meant the company could not secure a patent on them.

ISC contested the ruling, saying the eggs, activated by a chemical process known as parthenogenesis, could not develop into human beings as they lacked the full parental DNA required.

Human originally came from normally fertilised eggs but this caused serious ethical misgivings since the embryos were subsequently destroyed as the were collected.

As a result, scientists welcomed the development of parthenogenesis as it met at least some of these concerns, allowing them a clearer conscience in one of the pioneer fields of healthcare research.

Cruz Villalon also recognised, however, that recent research had pointed to the possibility that such might in the future be so modified that they could in effect be considered .

In that case, European Union member states would still have the right under existing law to deny patents on ethical and moral grounds, he said.

Explore further: Stem-cell patent battle continues

Related Stories

Stem-cell patent battle continues

April 28, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A group of 13 of the top stem-cell research scientists submitted a letter to the journal Nature this week in response to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) case that could ban all patents involving stem-cell ...

EU court: No patents for some stem cell techniques (Update 2)

October 18, 2011

The European Union's top court ruled Tuesday that scientists cannot patent stem cell techniques that use human embryos for research, a decision some scientists said could threaten major medical advances if it prevents biotech ...

New method increases supply of embryonic stem cells

January 27, 2014

A new method allows for large-scale generation of human embryonic stem cells of high clinical quality. It also allows for production of such cells without destroying any human embryos. The discovery is a big step forward ...

Recommended for you

Researchers design first artificial ribosome

July 29, 2015

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University have engineered a tethered ribosome that works nearly as well as the authentic cellular component, or organelle, that produces all the proteins ...

Studies reveal details of error correction in cell division

July 29, 2015

Cell biologists led by Thomas Maresca at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with collaborators elsewhere, report an advance in understanding the workings of an error correction mechanism that helps cells detect and ...

Researchers discover new type of mycovirus

July 29, 2015

Researchers, led by Dr Robert Coutts, Leverhulme Research Fellow from the School of Life and Medical Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire, and Dr Ioly Kotta-Loizou, Research Associate at Imperial College, have discovered ...

Stressed out plants send animal-like signals

July 29, 2015

University of Adelaide research has shown for the first time that, despite not having a nervous system, plants use signals normally associated with animals when they encounter stress.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.