Spicy IP:Stem cell Patents.

Patent issues in the life sciences domain continue to generate much contentious debate especially so in sensitive niche areas such as stem cell research and therapy.With law and regulation struggling to keep pace with scientific and medical advance, the divide between the opponents and proponents widens.

Stem Cell Patents continue to occupy the incandescent zone and evolving jurisprudence in the west we hope will lend us some further light and insight

ICMR in India has been active in setting the momentum for regulation of stem research and therapy. Early this month, the first stem cell research facility in the government sector funded by the ICMR was set up at Stanley Medical in Tamilnadu .After years of hard work, the ICMR has also submitted the final guidelines for stem cell regulation in the country.

Interesting developments and landmark decisions were witnessed on the other side of the globe as well, ones that are likely to influence future legislation and advocacy in this area.

A key patent on human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) is back from the dead – in a form that seems less likely to stifle research.

James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison isolated the first human ESCs in 1998. This work and earlier experiments with cells from monkeys was covered by three US patents granted to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

In 2006, after complaints from scientists that charges and restrictions on using the cells were unreasonable, two groups challenged the patents, arguing that Thomson’s discovery was an “obvious” development from published work on isolating ESCs in other species.

The US Patent and Trademark Office has now issued an interim ruling reinstating one of them (US 7029913) in a form that covers only ESCs isolated from pre-implantation human embryos, not other cells with a similar ability to give rise to many of the body’s tissues. The groups that challenged the patents have vowed to appeal

Couple of weeks down the line, reports flowed in that two more embryonic patents held by the research wing on of UW-Madison has been upheld by the US PTO adding fuel to the already surging debate and outcry from public interest groups.

This one is headed for a long winding road ahead with no easy path in sight!

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