Description of the project
THE PATENT SYSTEM AS A MEDIUM OF ETHICISATION AND POLITICISATION OF STEM CELL RESEARCH AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE EXPANSION OF ITS FUNCTIONS FOR LIFE SCIENCES
The project will analyse the patenting of human embryonic stem cells (hES cells) on the basis of the pertinent developments in law, legal interpretation processes, ethical position statements and societal discussions on both national and international levels. It is targeted at a patenting system which in recent decades has been expanded with significant functions due to radical scientific and technical changes, legislative initiatives, non-legislative further development of law and civil society activities. This functional expansion is bringing about an ethicisation and politicisation of the patenting system of stem cell research which has not been researched to date and which, in its application, could affect not only hES cells but also adult and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). Due to the new role of the patenting system as a medium of ethicisation and politicisation, the sensitive ethical-legal area of tension between the promotion of scientific innovation and the protection of scientific interests through the enforcement of patents is growing as new challenges arise. Such challenges affect the management of the life sciences as a whole, meaning that it will be possible to apply the project’s results from the field of stem cell research and their applications to this wider operational context.
Given the differing developments in the patent system in individual states and around the world, great uncertainty is currently prevalent amongst actors in science and the biotechnology sector as to which limitations the patenting of stem cell research results and the resulting applications are subject to. The answering of these key questions is intended to provide reference information on the extent and limitations of patenting possibilities for all stem cell types. The analysis will therefore provide reference information about the meaning of patents in both basic research and also in medical application, primarily in the highly promising area of regenerative medicine. On the basis of the incorporation of the patent system with its expanded functions into the system of human and fundamental rights, it will be possible to extrapolate future consequences for newly emerging areas of the life sciences which are subject to a dynamic comparable to that of stem cell research. Such consequences affect the weighting of normative considerations regarding the economic interests in the patenting of living matter. Thorough consideration of these arguments can reveal both the dangers and the pathways of the ethical-political functional expansion of patent law. On the basis of the application of appropriate communication strategies which address scientific, economic, political, administrative and civil society actors, the results of the identification, calcification and evaluation of developmental tendencies will be able to contribute to the future development of the patent system.