Biotech Patent update on human embryos
The EU Court of Justice held on 18 December 2014 that a non-fertilised human ovum is not regarded as a human embryo unless it has an inherent capacity to develop into a human being. The fact that the ovum had been parthenogenetically-activated and had commenced a process of development was insufficient for it to be caught by the EU Biotech Directive and hence excluded from patentability.
The decision overturns the part of the Brüstle judgement (C34/10) of 18 October 2011 where the court held that an unfertilised human ova stimulated by parthenogenesis would be deemed to be capable of developing into a human being in the same way as a fertilised ova, the court accepting further scientific knowledge that such organisms do not have the capability to develop into a human being. The court did, however, specify that should an ovum have the inherent ability to develop into a human being, it would be treated in the same way as a fertilised ovum at all stages of its development.
The decision offer a glimmer of light to research in stem cell therapy.