Brussels, 11 Oct 2002
The European Commission has stated that it is to investigate the scope of patents on sequences of genes isolated from the human body, and the patentability of human stem cells and the cell lines obtained from them.
In its first annual study on the implications of the 1998 Directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions, the Commission promises the investigations as part of its pledge to assess any problems that arise in the developing sciences of biotechnology and genetic engineering.
The aim will be to find a balance between preserving the principal of non-ownership of the human body, whilst encouraging research in these areas that could lead to the development of new treatments and drugs.
Within the Commission, it is felt that research on biotechnology and genetic engineering may suffer if the commercial incentive of securing patents is removed by law. The study will focus on whether or not an increase in the scope on patents for certain techniques and applications is needed.
The results of the Commission's enquiries will be published in next year's annual assessment of the Directive. Their investigation will involve debate between scientists, lawyers and patent administrators, and the setting up of a panel of experts.
Another of the report's conclusions stresses the pressing need for every Member State to fully incorporate the Directive into national law. So far this has only happened in six EU countries, and the Commission fears that failure to do so by the rest would 'considerably hamper the development of biotechnology in Europe.'
For further information, please consult the following web address: http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/com/rpt/ 2002/com2002_0545en01.pdf