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Human embryo patent row threatens research

A fledgling biosciences industry that promises to revolutionise medicine in the 21st century could be destroyed by a French judge who has declared it immoral to patent inventions based on cells derived from human embryos.

Some of Britain's leading biomedical scientists — including Sir Ian Wilmut who cloned Dolly the sheep — have expressed their horror over a legal opinion by Yves Bot, |advocate-general of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, that no-one should be allowed to patent any invention that comes out of research involving stem cells obtained from human embryos.

This would include potential treatments for incurable conditions ranging from heart disease and Parkinson's to blindness and spinal cord |injuries.

Sir Ian and 12 other leading stem cell researchers said the ruling, if followed by the judges of the European court, would effectively end all research on embryonic stem cells, which have the unique ability to develop into any of the dozens of cell types that make up the human body.

“The consequences, if it was not possible to patent these processes, is that companies would be much less likely to invest in academic research,” Sir Ian said.

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