The European Court of Justice decided today that, while the use of human embryos "for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes" is patentable, their use "for purposes of scientific research" isn't.
The ruling was triggered when Greenpeace Germany challenged the patented inventions of Professor Oliver Brüstle who is featured in our documentary. Brüstle had found a way to convert embryonic stem cells into nerve cells.
"This could really halt the progress of stem cell therapies for as yet untreatable diseases."
Oliver Brüstle responded to the ruling:
"With this unfortunate decision, the fruits of years of translational research by European scientists will be wiped away and left to the non-European countries."
Pete Coffey is about to leave Europe. He will begin work as full-time researcher with the University of California in Santa Barbara in November.
Another protagonist in our film, Prof Austin Smith of the University of Cambridge, is also quoted by the BBC:
"This unfortunate decision by the court leaves scientists in a ridiculous position. We are funded to do research for the public good, yet prevented from taking our discoveries to the marketplace where they could be developed into new medicines."