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Stem Cell Research Banned by EU Court Ruling

18 October 2011

LONDON, 18 OCTOBER 2011 - Today the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJ-EU) handed down its long-awaited judgment in the Brüstle case on the patentability of stem cell inventions.

The CJ-EU ruled that no one should be allowed to patent any invention that comes out of research involving stem cells obtained from human embryos.

The ban will prevent scientists from obtaining patent protection in Europe for their research if human embryos have been destroyed at any stage.  It has been argued that this may stop research into treatments for conditions ranging from heart disease and Parkinson's to blindness and spinal cord injuries.

The case before the European Court of Justice began as a legal battle over a patent granted in 1999 to Professor Oliver Brüstle, of the University of Bonn in Germany, relating to a method of producing nerve cell precursors from embryonic stem cells.

Professor Brüstle’s patent was challenged in the German courts by the environmental group Greenpeace in 2004 and two years later the dispute was referred to the European Court of Justice (now the CJ-EU) by the German Federal Patent Court.

Sarah Turner, of Counsel at Hogan Lovells, said:

"Unless effective, alternative sources of cells can be found for stem cell research this ruling will have an enormous effect on the fledgling stem-cell industry.  If patent protection cannot be obtained, investment in this area is likely to decrease. Investors look to the rights granted by patents as a means to recover the huge costs of research in this area and support ongoing and future research.  Without proper protection the incentives to innovate are eroded."


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