Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_92829

Scientists highlight patenting problem in stem cell research

21 February 2011
Appeared in BioNews 596

The widespread patenting and privatisation of stem cell lines, data and technology could hinder medical research in this field, a group of scientists has warned in a paper published in Science this month. The number of patents being awarded in stem cell research has made it difficult for researchers to identify who owns intellectual property rights, limiting access to stem cell lines and stifling scientific progress.

'Pervasive taking of intellectual property rights has resulted in a complex and confusing patchwork of ownership and control in the field of stem cell science', said lead author of the paper, Dr Debra Mathews of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in the United States. Dr Mathews said while intellectual property rights provide a key role in turning basic research into marketable products, 'transparency about such property is equally critical'.

The management of intellectual rights in the field of stem cell research is particularly difficult because of the blurring of boundaries on what constitutes information and material, the authors explain. Furthermore, stem cells are not simply research material but are derived from the tissue of human beings giving rise to ethical considerations.

The paper calls for clarification and ways to broaden access to property rights. The researchers suggest one way to achieve this might take the form of a centralised portal for access to existing databases, such as the UK Stem Cell Bank and the US Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry. They said collectivising access to cell lines and information will offset some of the negative effects of patents.

'Existing programs to reform science are based on a partial diagnosis of the problem', said Professor David Winickoff, associate professor of bioethics and society at the University of California and co-author of the article. 'We need a conceptual synthesis that reflects how stem cells entangle persons and things, information and materials, property and the public domain'.

'A real solution to the problem', Professor Winickoff continued, 'will have to manage all three of these complexities together, and we think we have a pathway for doing that'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Access to Stem Cells and Data: Persons, Property Rights, and Scientific Progress
Science |  11 February 2011
Pharma patents 'are stifling stem cell research'
Chromatography Today |  17 February 2011
Scientists Warn Against Stifling Effect of Widespread Patenting in Stem Cell Field
Science Daily |  15 February 2011
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
28 March 2011 - by Nishat Hyder 
An advisor to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has issued a preliminary opinion stating that procedures involving human embryonic stem (hES) cell lines are not patentable....
8 November 2010 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has weighed in on the complex issue of gene patenting against the principle that genes should be eligible for patent protection, reversing the government's position on the matter and causing consternation for many biotechnology companies. This week it issued a legal brief as a 'friend of the court' joining a lawsuit challenging the rights of companies to patent genetic technologies....
1 February 2010 - by MacKenna Roberts 
A landmark US lawsuit is due to begin this week in New York which will question the right of private companies to hold patents on disease-related genes and their exclusive license rights to be the sole provider of genetic tests for those diseases. Last May, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation, filed a legal action that challenged seven US patents for two genes linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. The action was lau...
8 November 2009 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
A lawsuit challenging the patents relating to two genes linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer will proceed, a US federal judge ruled last week....
1 September 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
BioNews reporting from the British Society for Human Genetics annual conference in Warwick:...
10 August 2009 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A Senate Committee in Australia is hearing arguments for and against gene patenting with a view to propose future law reforms in this area. Opponents of gene patents argue that it can restrict access to vital diagnostic techniques, such as breast cancer screening, which identify certain genes that indicate the presence of a disorder. On the other hand...
26 May 2009 - by Selene Kaye 
On 12 May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the US government's practice of granting patents on human genes - specifically, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancer. In the last 20 or so years the...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.