The European Court of Justice ruled yesterday that human reproductive stem cells which are not capable of developing into human beings can be patented. This is an important decision for local Carlsbad's International Stem Cell Corp. who has been trying to retain stem cell technologies which they have developed. Previously in 2011, it was ruled that companies could not gain a patent for embryonic cells; a decision which many felt would hamper scientific research progress.
A patent is defined as the process were a sovereign state awards the exclusive rights to a company or inventor, for a set period of time, in exchange for detailed public disclosure about the product. The term of protection offered should be at a minimum of twenty years.
International Stem Cell Corp. use human parthenogenetic stem cells (hpSCs) for therapeutic applications and develop and commercialize cell-based research and cosmetics. This decision from the EU Court is good news for the San Diego biotech company as they can now apply for patents for their stem cells made from unfertilized or parthenogenetic human egg cells.
The EU does not award patents for human embryos which are the source of embryonic stem cells. Dividing parthenogenetic cells resemble embryos and therefore the company were in a fight to obtain the exclusive rights to them. Although there is a resemblance, parthenogenetic cells are produced from asexual reproduction, when the offspring develops from unfertilized eggs; arguably making them distinct from embryos.
After the decision yesterday however, that parthenogenetic cells are indeed not embryos, the company is now planning to apply for permission to carry out a clinical trial for the development of a treatment using parthenogenetic cells for Parkinson's disease. They aim to apply by the end of the year and begin the trial in a couple of months, after they raise $5 million for funding.