The European Court of Justice, the highest court for EU countries, announced today that it will not allow patenting of research processes that involve stem cells derived from human embryos. Some industry observers say this will drive stem cell research and innovation abroad.
The ruling was in response to a Greenpeace petition objecting to German researcher Oliver Bruestle's patent application for converting embryonic stem cells into nerve cells. In response the court said, "A process which involves removal of a stem cell from a human embryo at the blastocyst [early embryo] stage, entailing the destruction of that embryo, cannot be patented," according to BBC News.
While Oliver's application had caused a furious debate among politicians, church representatives, and others no doubt happy with the court’s decision, European scientists say the ruling hampers their ability to develop new therapies. “This unfortunate decision by the Court leaves scientists in a ridiculous position," Austin Smith from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research told The Telegraph. "We are funded to do research for the public good, yet prevented from taking our discoveries to the market place where they could be developed into new medicines.”