Monday 19 May 2008

The Scotsman reports that the future funding of stem cell companies is Scotland is dependent on a ruling next month by the European Patent Office's Enlarged Board of Appeals about whether stem cells are patentable or not.

The decision is on a patent application filed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) - which holds the rights to a number of stem cell lines. Initially rejected by the Patent Office, WARF filed an appeal which was passed by the Appeal Board to the Enlarged Board of Appeal for a ruling (see decision here).

Personally I always find it interesting the various excuses made for not funding projects. Whilst the availability of patent protection is clearly one factor, the ruling will only effect the availability in Europe and the conditions that might be placed on the granting of patents in the stem cell field. Patent protection will still be available in other countries, such as the United States. I venture to doubt whether the effect on Scottish research will dependent on this ruling or not. It would be more serious if other countries came to a similar conclusion which would effectively allow a free-for-all in the stem cell field - and that outcome is unlikely to be either beneficial to the financing of research or on ethical grounds.

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