11.10.2012, Brussels: EFPIA would like to congratulate Sir John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for winning this year’s Nobel Prize of medicine for their work on the reprogramming of adult cells back into embryo-like stem cells that can be used as replacement tissue for damaged brain or heart cells. "The discoveries have shown that specialized cells can turn back the developmental clock under certain circumstances,"the prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute stated. "These discoveries have also provided new tools for scientists around the world and led to remarkable progress in many areas of medicine." In the long-term, the discovery could lead to the creation replacement tissues for treating diseases like Parkinson’s or diabetes.

A Nobel Prize for research on stem cells underlines the importance and potential of this particularly important field in the search for cures for illnesses that remain, up until now, incurable. EFPIA supports stem cell research through its Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and will do so in its upcoming project looking into the creation of a stem cell bank. The IMI is the EU’s largest public-private partnership, with over €2billion in budget, and supports projects through a network of industry and academic experts throughout the EU. The projects are aimed at improving the efficiency of medicines development processes to deliver new effective and safe therapies to patients.

The debate on stem cell research is very sensitive, with strong lines of divisions throughout EU Member States. The announcement comes at a crucial time for research with the European Parliament currently debating whether to include stem cells in the Horizon 2020 budget. At the moment not all EU Member States allow stem cell research and many of these countries are pushing for its exclusion from EU budget lines. EFPIA believes that even if it is not possible to patent stem cells they are still an essential tool for research contrary to claims post Brüstle judgment. The EU must look to the long-term, in line with the EU’s competitivity goals and keep its lead in an increasingly competitive field.

There has been a call by many researchers and patient groups especially in the UK for research to be able to continue as it is fundamental to discover cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s or heart disease. The proof that the research is fundamental is there, it is now up to politicians to decide.

About EFPIA:

EFPIA represents the pharmaceutical industry operating in Europe. Through its direct membership of 33 national associations and 39 leading pharmaceutical companies, EFPIA provides the voice of 1,900 companies committed to researching, developing and bringing new medicines to improve health and quality of life around the world. The pharmaceutical industry invests 27.5 billion on research and development per year in Europe and directly employs 660,000 people including 116,000 in R&D units in Europe. 

EFPIA members are committed to delivering innovative medicines to address unmet needs of patients and reducing the burden of chronic diseases for Europe’s ageing population. EFPIA believes in close cooperation with its stakeholders to help create sustainable healthcare   systems and to develop prompt responses to health threats in Europe.

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