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7 posts from October 2011

October 27, 2011

Jumping the innovation gap: Breathing life into life science startups

Innovation_Gapby Paul Krzyzanowski

Canada was built upon the inventiveness and resourcefulness of people who lived here. Why then, have Canadians long heard and read about being second best, sellouts, and in general not that great? Thinking we aren’t competitive has almost become a national mantra. But it’s more than a state of mind: the innovation gap has a $9,500 per year impact (as compared to the United States) on our standard of living.

In the last two weeks, two reports on Canadian innovation were released. Both were critical of Canadian capacity for research and inventiveness, and both suggested ways Canada could come out on top when it comes to competing with the best worldwide. The reports warrant some scrutiny, particularly with respect to a fledgling industry such as biotech.

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October 25, 2011

Stem cells + world class scientists + Greek island = a summer school to remember

by Angela C.H. McDonald

 I am a third year PhD student who likes to call herself a stem cell biologist and I have a confession to make: I sometimes forget that there are many other stem cell types in addition to the stem cells that I study (embryo-derived stem cells).

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October 20, 2011

EU stem cell patent ruling: too early to predict impact

by Ubaka Ogbogu

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled this week that scientific research patents cannot be granted for human embryonic stem cell products under European Union (EU) law. The patent in issue, held by Dr. Oliver Brüstle, Director of the Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology at the University of Bonn, concerns isolated and purified neural precursor cells derived from human embryonic stem cells, their derivation process, and use for treatment of neural defects. Soon after the patents were granted in 1997, Greenpeace Germany filed a successful challenge annulling the patents in the German Federal Patent Court. Dr. Brüstle appealed to the German Federal Court of Justice, which then referred the case to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling on the legal questions raised by the case. 

EU law prohibits the patenting of uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial applications. The main question before the ECJ was whether this prohibition extends to patents on uses of human embryos for scientific research purposes. The Court answered yes, noting that while the aims of scientific research differs from industrial or commercial pursuits, the “grant of a patent implies, in principle, its industrial or commercial application.” In answering the other questions posed in the case, the ECJ also ruled that the meaning of human embryo includes a fertilized human ovum, a non-fertilized human ovum into which the nucleus of a human somatic cell has been transplanted, a non-fertilized human ovum whose further development is stimulated by parthenogenesis, and stem cells derived from human blastocysts. According to the court, the crucial consideration in classifying an entity as a human embryo is whether the technique used to create it (fertilization, parthenogenesis, nuclear transfer, derivation, etc.) commences the process of development of a human being.

The ruling effectively excludes any human embryonic stem cell inventions or products from being patented for any purpose. Without the incentives and protections of the patent system, some are speculating that the ruling will cast a chill on stem cell research in the EU, and may cause researchers to either turn to iPS research or migrate to jurisdictions with more permissive patent regimes. While I agree that the ruling will have some impact on research conduct and progress, I think it is too early to assess what that impact might be. The role that intellectual property (IP), especially patents, play in the context of biotechnology is nuanced, and there is currently no strong evidence to suggest that IP actually promotes the benefits associated with it in the biotech context. So claims that this would affect collaboration, cause brain drain, impact funding, research translation, etc., depend on the assumption that patents play a significant role in all these areas, a view that is much contested.

The ruling, though preliminary, it is binding on all national courts and tribunals in EU member states.  

 

October 14, 2011

Canadian organization wins Genetics Policy Institute Education Award for stem cell education

CurioCity


Every year at the World Stem Cell Summit, the Genetics Policy Institute (GPI) hands out a number of Stem Cell Action Awards to recognize organizations and individuals who have positively impacted the stem cell community. This year in Pasadena, California, GPI awarded the Canadian science education organization Let’s Talk Science with the 2011 Stem Cell Action Award for Education.

GPI noted the multi-pronged approach of Let’s Talk Science in helping high school teachers and students approach the dynamic study of stem cells. In particular, Let’s Talk Science supported StemCellTalks symposia across Canada and, from those symposia, developed a stem cell feature on their CurioCity student forum.

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October 12, 2011

Help rename the Stem Cell Network Blog

We're changing! We've added some new factors (contributions from the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine) and now we're differentiating into something new! The new blog will keep your favourite bloggers, but will add more comprehensive coverage of issues pertaining to stem cells and regenerative medicine.

To celebrate this growth, the blog needs a new name -- and you can help. Send your ideas to media@stemcellnetwork.ca We're offering a CAD $100 prize pack if your suggestion is chosen. Deadline is October 21. 

October 06, 2011

Human somatic cell nuclear transfer: Three genomes is the charm

This content has moved!

Please read this article on its new home, Signals BlogHuman somatic cell nuclear transfer: Three genomes is the charm

October 05, 2011

Unconstrained thinking: the link between computer chips and clinical trials

by Drew Lyall

The World Stem Cell Summit taking place this week in Pasadena, California, occupies a unique place in the stem cell calendar. The summit brings together patient advocates, policy makers, industry and scientists from around the world to take stock of progress in the field; to discuss common political, regulatory, financial and scientific barriers to therapies reaching the clinic; and, to actively collaborate on moving efforts forward.

One of the joys of this meeting is that is usually includes a thought-provoking keynote talk from an icon outside of the field, but with a deep personal interest in its success. This year's keynote came from Andy Grove, who founded Intel Corporation in 1968, and in various roles including Chief Scientist, President & CEO and Chairman grew the company to the multi-billion dollar behemoth it is today, ranking right along side alongside Microsoft, Google, Apple and now Facebook as one of the giants of the Information Age.

In 1999, Grove was also diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

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