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Scientists have warned that a legal bombshell from Europe could deny British patients from having access to revolutionary stem cell treatments.
The European Court of Justice is considering a test case that might make it unlawful to patent applications using embryonic stem cells on moral grounds.
There are growing fears about the outcome after an influential ruling recommendation that patenting the use of cells derived from human embryos breaches ethical principles.
Yves Bot, one of eight “advocate generals” who was chosen to give independent guidance to the court gave the recommendation.
Although the advice given by the “advocate generals” is not binding they have a high level of influence and they are frequently followed.
It is feared that a European legal ban on embryonic stem cell patents could potentially have catastrophic consequences for Europe’s multibillion-pound biotech industry, patients and the UK economy.
Thirteen leading researchers in the field have spelled out their concerns in a letter published in the journal Nature.
They include clone pioneer and “Dolly the Sheep” creator Professor Ian Wilmut, chairman of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh, and Professor Austin Smith, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research in Cambridge.
Speaking at a press conference in London, Prof Smith said the advocate general’s opinion, issued in a public statement, was “astonishing and shocking”.
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