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Stem cell research 'under threat'

28th April 2011

Scientists have raised concerns about a threat being posed to stem cell research in Europe.

stem cell research

In a letter to the journal Nature, they have expressed fears that developing therapies from human embryonic stem cells is an area under threat.

Their worries focus on moves at the European Court of Justice to ban patent protection for embryonic stem cell lines.

A law officer argues it should be unlawful to allow patents where research involved destroying embryos and while judges are not bound to follow the advice, they frequently do so.

In the letter to the journal, scientists argue that industry would have no incentive to invest in this area unless their innovations could be protected with patents.

Professor Austin Smith from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research in Cambridge, who is one of the signatories, said: “It would be devastating if the court was to follow this advice. It would put at threat the future of biomedical research in Europe and some projects here could collapse.

“It would also send the message that scientists are engaged in immoral activity so this is very negative for our community and it would erode public confidence in what we do.”

He felt that concern about the commercialisation of the human embryo was misplaced.
Professor Pete Coffey, who is director of the London Project to Cure Blindness, maintained that there was an ethical need to treat disease.

He said a ban on patents would see Europe lose its place as a leader in this area of research.

 

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