WASHINGTON An international group of stem cell scientists, bioethicists and experts in law and public policy called urgently today for specific measures designed to counter secrecy and self interest. The recommended measures focus on the sharing of data, materials and collective management of intellectual property related to stem cells.
In a consensus statement, the Hinxton Groupso named for the British city where members first met in 2006lists five recommendations about data and materials sharing in a field in which patenting and other proprietary claims threaten to slow progress and steer the focus toward big profits rather than advancing public health.
"Progress in human pluripotent stem cell science has been incredibly rapid over the last 12 to 13 years," says Debra Mathews Ph.D., assistant director for science programs at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and a member of the Hinxton Group's steering committee.
"The science has moved so fast that there hasn't been much opportunity for the field to develop or reflect on norms or standards for sharing data and materials," Mathews adds, "or to engage in the sorts of collective action now needed in the field to allow both basic and translational science to move forward, and for society to see benefits in the form of new therapies and treatments."
The Hinxton Groupformed by the Berman Institute's Stem Cell Policy and Ethics Programissued its recommendations today at a panel discussion about obstacles to openness in stem cell science. The event, held at the headquarters for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was co-hosted by the bioethics institute and AAAS.
Mathews says the "concrete and actionable" steps called for in the statement require the concerted effort of researchers and their institutions, funders, members of industry and government agencies.
The group's recommendations are to:
Funders and journals would also request that researchers share useful negative data generated in the course of a project, with scientists and clinicians advising journals and funders on appropriate standards for data completeness.
The statement calls on technology-transfer offices at government-funded research institutions to make public their stem cell intellectual property rights. The group also urges patent offices and key policymakers to reassess whether current standards for granting stem cell patents are appropriate.
Members of the Hinxton Group met in Manchester last November to develop the recommendations, focusing primarily on human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.
While acknowledging that intellectual property rights can help ensure financial return on the much-needed private investments that fund much translational research, the Hinxton Group says its recommendations aim to uphold overriding societal goals at the same time. "We believe that licensing practices in the biological sciences should reflect the goal of global justice," the group states in the document, "borne out of a human dignity common to all and a universal commitment to reduce suffering."
|Contact: Michael Pena|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions