Patentability of parthenogenic stem cells questioned

Another reference has been made to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling on the patentability of stem cells, under Directive 98/44/ED (the Biotechnology Directive). The case is called International Stem Cell Corporation (ISCC) v Comptroller General of Patents. The question referred concerns whether stem cells obtained from parthenogenically stimulated human ova are excluded from patentability as ‘human embryos’.

The reference follows an earlier ruling by the CJEU in its Brüstle decision (C-34/10) that stem cells obtained from human embryos directly, or indirectly, are unpatentable and its application in the German Supreme Court.

However, the technology used by ISCC uses parthogenetic activation of oocytes and so does not involve the destruction of a fertilised ovum capable of developing into a human being. For this reason, it is seen as a more ethical alternative to the technology at issue in Brüstle

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