Research on human embryonic stem cells – a shaky future marked by murky decisions


A Rome – Human stem cell research has become something of a studia non grata in Italian politics. Research into human embryonic stem cells was explicitly excluded from a recent call for proposals to fund stem-cell biology. Three scientists subsequently appealed against the exclusion, but lost the first round in court. This could mark the starting point of a lengthy legal battle to define the future of embryonic stem cell research in Italy. Just three days before the deadline for submitting grant proposals on July 20th, an administrative court in Rome backed up the government position and rejected the scientists’ appeal.
Political support for stem cell research in Italy has a turbulent history. In 2007, then health minister Livia Turco cancelled a a3m fund after complaints about the nontransparent distribution of the monies. After some squabbling, Turoc agreed to set up a new a8m fund, and to guarantee proper reviewing procedures. In spring of last year, after the ruling centre-left government lost to the coalition headed by Silvio Berlusconi, Turco’s successor Ferrucio Fazio promised to continue the fund.
A committee of five experts was then established to formulate a call for projects. Giulio Cossu, a developmental biologist at the San Raffaele scientific institute in Milan and one of the committee members, says that the group formulated a text that included every type of stem-cell proposal.

The mystery of who wrote what

But when the proposal was published, a sentence had been added explicitly excluding projects involving human embryonic stem cells. The proposal appeared online after a February meeting of Italy’s State-Regions Conference. Made up of representatives from the 20 Italian regions, that body decides how national health funds are distributed. In media interviews, Fazio dismissed rumours in spring that the sentence had been added by someone within his ministry. He insisted that the sentence had been added by the regions.
Elena Cattaneo from the University of Milan, along with Elisabetta Cerbai from the University of Florence and Silvia Garagna from the University of Pavia, filed a lawsuit that was rejected by a court in Rome on formal grounds. The judges noted that only institutional recipients of the funding – like regional councils and universities – are allowed to appeal against the government. Individual researchers, they said, don’t have that option.
The Italian law that regulates in vitro fertilisation (Legge 40) forbids the creation of new cell lines from embryos for scientific purposes, but does not prevent researchers from studying them. Cattaneo’s lawyer, Vittorio Angiolini, told the magazine Science that the next move will be to appeal to a higher Italian court, the State Council. He said he believes that the judges’ decision is by no means justified from a legal perspective.



Toscana Biomarkers S.r.l has entered the market for biomarkers with its first diagnostic kit. In late January, the company from Siena signed a licence agreement with DIESSE Ricerche S.r.l, based in Genoa. DIESSE will produce and...



Italian researchers have reprogrammed neonatal cardiomyocytes into iPSCs that can re-differentiate toward CMs more efficiently than either cardiac fibroblast-derived iPS cells or even ES cells. (Cell Death Differ.,...



Rome – A cold virus isolated from chimpanzees might work as an vector for human vaccines. Adenoviruses are principally suitable as vectors for vaccines for their ability to induce strong immune responses. But as most humans have...



Milan/Turku – Italian drug developer Newron SpA has had a roller-coaster ride in the last few months. First Merck Serono decided to drop its stake in the company’s Parkinson’s Disease candidate salfinamide, and returned the...



Genoa/Irvine – Researchers from the universities at Genoa and Irvine (US) have patented a new compound that blocks removal of the endo­cannabinoid painkiller anandamide from the synaptic space by a selective transport system....



Parma/Baranzate – Chiesi Farmaceutici Spa has said it will lengthen its long-term collaboration with NiKem Research, which is focused on developing treatments within the respiratory therapeutic area. The two drug developers have...



Milan/Turku – Biotie Therapies ASA’s announcement that it had signed an agreement to acquire Newron Pharma­ceuticals S.p.A. for €45m is both good and bad news for the Italian biotechnology sector. While Italy is losing one of its...



Como – Shares in Gentium SpA lost about a third of their value on Thursday after The Italian biopharmaceutical company withdrew a marketing application for its drug Defibrotide being used against complications related to stem...



Milan/London – Italy’s MolMed SpA has signed a deal with UK-based pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to develop a production process for a gene therapy against the rare ‘bubble boy disease’. Over the next two years, GSK will...

Displaying results 1 to 10 out of 181

1-10 Next >

© 2007-2015 BIOCOM


All videos

Product of the week



LentiKat’s offers an unusual investment opportunity

LentiKat’s owns, manufactures and distributes a patented immobilization into lentil-shaped Lentikats Biocatalysts. The unique lentil-like shape of the Lentikats Biocatalyst ensures unlimited diffusion of substrate(s) into any part of the matrix, while still retaining a convenient size for easy separation from the reaction medium. They find application in the Pharma & Food industry (including bio-based chemicals), Wastewater treatment as well as Biofuels. more...


All Events



BioVaria 2015

Job Advert

Sales Manager

celares GmbH is a Berlin based drug delivery company focused on chemical modifications of biological drugs. We offer customized development services for international pharma and biopharma companies and have manufacturing capabilities for key starting materials used for the preparation of pharmaceutical drugs. For the intensification of our own sales activities we are looking for a sales manager. more...

Stock list

All quotes


  • WILEX3.59 EUR5.59%
  • BASILEA118.10 CHF3.14%
  • PAION2.58 EUR2.79%


  • BIOTEST79.20 EUR-19.51%
  • CYTOS1.01 CHF-8.18%
  • FORMYCON28.00 EUR-6.01%


  • CO.DON3.15 EUR22.1%
  • WILEX3.59 EUR21.3%
  • FORMYCON28.00 EUR21.0%


  • CYTOS1.01 CHF-27.9%
  • BIOTEST79.20 EUR-18.1%
  • THERAMETRICS0.07 CHF-12.5%


  • SANTHERA98.85 CHF2460.9%
  • CYTOS1.01 CHF676.9%
  • WILEX3.59 EUR337.8%


  • MOLOGEN5.07 EUR-54.8%
  • THERAMETRICS0.07 CHF-30.0%
  • BIOFRONTERA2.41 EUR-28.1%

No liability assumed, Date: 26.04.2015

Current issue

All issues