Archive for month: October, 2017
The ALLEA Permanent Working Group Intellectual Property Rights warns that recent scientific progress might pose new legislative challenges concerning the patentability of inventions involving human embryonic stem cells.
ALLEA warns in a statement published today that, in light of recent scientific progress in human embryonic stem cells, parts of the reasoning of a 2014 judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) “could soon lead to inconsistent and contradictory results” in the field of patentability of inventions involving human embryonic stem cells. Therefore, ALLEA renews its plea for applying the same moral standards that govern research and developments in the area of embryonic stem cells also when it comes to questions of patentability of inventions involving embryonic stem cells.
The statement with the full title “Patentability of Inventions involving Human “Embryonic” Pluripotent Stem Cells in Europe”, is the fourth of a series of statements prepared by the ALLEA Permanent Working Group Intellectual Property Rights addressing the sensitive issue of the patentability of inventions involving human embryonic stem cells since 2011.
The ALLEA expert group reaffirms its previous reasoning and warns about legislative shortcomings hampering the patentability of inventions involving human “embryonic” pluripotent stem cells in light of the recent scientific progress. In 2014, the judgement of the Court of the Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the International Stem Cell Corporation case (C-364/13) provided clarifications on the term “a human embryo” but at the same time, parts of the reasoning “could soon lead to inconsistent and contradictory results”, the ALLEA statement argues.
In this case, the Court ruled that an unfertilized human egg whose division and further development have been stimulated by parthenogenesis[i] does not constitute a ‘human embryo’ in European legislation (Article 6(2) of the Directive 98/44/EC). However, the Court argued that this interpretation only applies “if, in light of current scientific knowledge,” the unfertilized human egg stimulated by parthenogenesis does not, in itself, have “the inherent capacity of developing into a human being”.
The developing scientific knowledge might soon provide new implications for the patentability of inventions involving human pluripotent stem cells.
ALLEA’s Working Group warns that, following this judgement, the developing scientific knowledge might soon provide new implications for the patentability of inventions involving human pluripotent stem cells. Particularly it indicates that a specific type of organism, parthenotes, which are derived from embryonic stem cells via parthenogenesis, currently lack the “inherent capacity of developing into a human being”. However, this feature might change in the near or distant future as a result of further research in this field. Should this be the case, parthenotes may be treated as having “the inherent capacity to develop into a human being”. As a result of this, “inventions that involve the same type of human pluripotent stem cells will not be patentable anymore”, the expert group points out. Therefore, “it appears unclear what is to be understood under the term ‘inherent capacity’”, the statement concludes.
In light of these developments and to keep up with the most recent scientific progress, ALLEA renews its plea that the same moral standards which control research and development in the area of human embryonic stem cells in Europe should also apply to the control of the patentability of inventions derived from this type of research.
“(…) it is necessary to narrow the notion of an invention to its genuine understanding, i.e. separate it from whatever preceded and whatever follows the invention and is controlled by rules that are in compliance with competent regulations in force and prevailing principles of ethics and morals. Only such an approach, as ALLEA understands the matter, can prevent human pluripotent embryonic stem cells from being in the end equated to an “embryo” whose definition as it stands will develop further depending on the progress of scientific knowledge”, the expert group affirms.
The ALLEA Permanent Working Group Intellectual Property Rights combines decades of highly specialised expertise in the European legal framework for patents or copyrights. The chair of the expert group and lead author of the publication, Joseph Straus, is Professor emeritus of Law at the Universities of Munich and Ljubljana, corresponding member of the Academy of the Lincei and the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. He was director of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, and is one of the world’s most influential scholars in the field of Intellectual Property Rights law.
Previous ALLEA publications on the topic of stem cells research in Europe include:
- Patenting of Inventions Involving Human Embryonic Pluripotent Stem Cells in Europe (2011)
- Patentability of Inventions Involving Human Embryonic Pluripotent Stem Cells in Europe of May 2011 and the Judgment of the Court of European Communities (Grand Chamber) of 18 October 2011 in Case C-34/10 (2012)
- Patentability and Research Funding relating to embryonic Stem Cells (e-SCs) (2013)
[i] Parthenogenesis is “a reproductive strategy that involves development of a female (rarely a male) gamete (sex cell) without fertilization” (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
ALLEA President-elect Antonio Loprieno will be the next President of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. Loprieno, a reputed scholar in Egyptology, Linguistics and Semitic languages, and former rector of the University of Basel, will assume his position in May 2018.
The electoral commission said that the Swiss Academies have chosen a “highly distinguished President who is both renowned and incredibly dedicated”, according to a press release published by the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.
“I am delighted to be able to serve the Swiss scientific community on both a national and international level, and will do so with real enthusiasm”, said Loprieno in a statement.
Loprieno, born in Bari (Italy) in 1955, was recently elected as the next president of ALLEA in the Budapest General Assembly on 4 September 2017. He will assume his position for the term 2018-2021 in Sofia during the next ALLEA General Assembly in May 2018.
The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, which is a member of ALLEA, is an association of the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT), the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (SAHS), the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS), and the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW). It further comprises the centre of excellence for technology assessment (TA-SWISS) and Science et Cité as well as other scientific networks.
Is there a crisis of trust in science? How can and should valid knowledge be acquired? How should the complexity and the processes of science be communicated in an era of digital communication? How are different disciplines dealing with these challenges? ALLEA is addressing these and more questions in its newly formed working group, which held its kick-off meeting in London at the British Academy on 18 October 2017.
The ALLEA Working Group “Truth, Trust & Expertise” held its kick-off meeting on 18th October in London at the British Academy to plan and discuss the group’s objectives and future activities. The expert group aims at exploring the current and past dynamics of public trust in expertise and the challenges it faces in an era of so-called “post-factualism”.
ALLEA Vice President and Co-Chair of the Working Group, Professor Ed Noort, welcomed the members of the group and pointed to the high relevance the topic has for Science and Policy. He thanked his Co-Chair Baroness Onora O’Neill of Bengarve and all the participating members for their engagement with this ALLEA activity, and emphasised the importance of the commitment shown by the hosting British Academy as well as the sending Member Academies.
The expert group aims at exploring the current and past dynamics of public trust in expertise and the challenges it faces in an era of so-called “post-factualism”.
Key aspects discussed by the Working Group were the alleged loss of trust in science, varying disciplinary perspectives on how trustworthy knowledge is produced, the evolving landscapes of communication, and responsibilities and possibilities of public engagement for scientists. The expert group stressed the necessity to overcome strong national biases in the debate and hence develop truly European and global perspectives. They also called for a (self-)critical examination from various disciplinary perspectives on how knowledge and scientific evidence are developed, communicated and disseminated, and how these processes influence public trust in such evidence.
The Working Group decided to organise a number of thematic workshops and a final public event during the upcoming months. It was further agreed to work on the programme of the scientific symposium accompanying ALLEA’s General Assembly in Sofia in May 2018. One of the objectives is to produce written contributions covering the broad spectrum of the Working Group’s activities.
SAPEA, the European Academy consortium within the European Scientific Advice Mechanism, organised a symposium on new approaches to science for policy in the Estonian Academy of Sciences
On 13 October 2017 SAPEA organised a one-day symposium titled Crossing Boundaries: New approaches to science for policy in Europe at the Estonian Academy of Sciences in Tallinn. The event was designed to complement the international conference “European Research Excellence: Impact and Value for Society” taking place the day before (see below). Both events took place as part of the programme of the Estonian Presidency of the European Council.
Bringing together speakers from the policy sphere, the private sector, social enterprise, the media and the academic community, the conference explored opportunities and challenges in science for policy together with an international audience of participants.
ALLEA President and Chair of SAPEA Günter Stock introduced the conference, noting the need for interdisciplinarity in the challenges facing decision makers today. He also expressed a wish to broaden the discussion beyond academia, looking at other sectors that are affected by policy making – from NGO’s to business perspectives.
In four well attended sessions speakers and participants explored change in science for policy, the need to improve relationships between the different stakeholders and the need to develop inclusive communities, to share best practice.
Throughout the day, speakers shared diverse views on the participation of citizens and their impact on science for policy, how policy makers and scientists are changing their approach to working with each other, and the role of NGO’s and business in science for policy.
The international line-up of speakers included Professor Dame Helen Wallace who set the scene with a keynote speech examining the international landscape for science policy, TV presenter and academic Professor Brian Cox, head of the SAM unit Dr Johannes Klumpers, Member of European Parliament Dr Marju Lauristin and Professor Janusz Bujnicki, Member of the Scientific Advice Mechanism High Level Group.
A write-up from the event will be available soon on the SAPEA website.
ALLEA President and Chair of SAPEA Günter Stock participated in a conference on the impact of research organised under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council.
The Estonian Research Agency held a high-level conference in Tallinn titled “European Research Excellence: Impact and Value for Society” on 12 October 2017 as part of its programme for the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council.
ALLEA President and Chair of SAPEA Günter Stock participated in the session “From impact to value of research: providing the rationale for investing in research”. The discussion addressed how to integrate the long-term impact of research investment in economic models.
The speakers of the conference underlined the importance of European research and presented the “Tallinn Call for Action”, which calls for increased funding in future European research programmes in order to make research & innovation a real priority to the European Union.
ALLEA Vice President Daniela Jezova participated in the 50th Anniversary of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts and congratulated the academy in a festive ceremony at the Macedonian Opera and Ballet.
On 9 October 2017 the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MASA) celebrated its great jubilee with a full-day scientific and festive programme. Representing European Academies, ALLEA Vice President Daniela Jezova congratulated MASA in the opening ceremony at the Macedonian Opera and Ballet. “We can be proud that the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts is one of the early members of ALLEA. That means that already at that time your Academy showed academic excellence, international recognition, independence of research and international collaborations,” she stated.
“We can be proud that the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts is one of the early members of ALLEA. That means that already at that time your Academy showed academic excellence, international recognition, independence of research and international collaborations,” ALLEA Vice President Daniela Jezova stated.
The event was opened by the President of the Republic of Macedonia, H.E. Gjorge Ivanov; the President of Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Academician Taki Fiti, and Academician Gjorgi Filipovski, member of the First Assembly of MASA. The cultural and artistic part of the programme comprised selected works by Macedonian composers, the members of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Academician Todor Skalovski, Academician Vlastimir Nikolovski and Academician Risto Avramovski. The event was closed with a documentary film titled “50 Years of MASA”, which presented a testimony to the growth and rise of the Academy, memories and facts, challenges and achievements, as well as views on the future.
The third AEMASE conference held at the Académie des sciences in Paris on 3-4 October 2017, supported by ALLEA, brought together experts, educators and policy-makers from 30 countries across both continents to elaborate strategies and actions for the improvement of science education in Africa, the Mediterranean region and Europe.
ALLEA, via its Working Group Science Education, participated in the third “African European Mediterranean Academies for Science Education” (AEMASE) conference held in Paris on 3-4 October. Participants presented and discussed a broad range of issues around the topic of inquiry-based science education (IBSE) in schools. Examples of best practise from both continents were exchanged. Delegates particularly sought to further develop and promote an initiative which seeks to implement a coordinated network of international sites called “Centres for Education to Science in Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe” (CESAME) to improve children’s scientific knowledge and intellectual tools, as well as young girls’ inclusion in science.
In the concluding statement, conference participants point to “the urgency to renew school science education (education in mathematics, natural science, technology and engineering) in order to help all children acquire adequate basic scientific knowledge and intellectual tools for a rational approach to situations, as well as to reach a better inclusion of young girls in science.” This commitment will be worked towards in the CESAME project. The project will initially set up at least two centres in Africa and in Europe respectively where IBSE-based curricula will be used for science education. The objective is to create a collaborative scheme in which science teachers can share experiences and learn from each other how to improve science teaching in schools. Academies and other scientific institutions from seven countries (Benin, Cameroon, Egypt, Italy, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia) have already expressed their interest in collaborating in this initiative and potentially hosting a CESAME centre.
The conference in Paris is the third iteration of an initiative started in 2014 with the first AEMASE conference in Rome, hosted at the time by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and continued in Dakar at the Académie Nationale des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal in 2015. The project is supported by a number of international academy networks, including ALLEA, NASAC (Network of African Science Academies) and the InteracademyPartnership (IAP). [Read the AEMASE report here]
The event was opened by Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of National Education in France, who thanked the academies for their efforts and underlined the importance of international collaboration in the crucial area of science education.
Through its working group on Science Education, ALLEA has promoted the strengthening and implementation of Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) programmes and methods over many years.
Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) is a form of science education that – unlike the traditional model where the teacher provides facts and the students learn them – gives children the opportunity to explore “hands on”, to experiment, to ask questions and to develop responses based on reasoning.