We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
In today's edition of Nature (March 26) scientists from the JRC Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) have published results from an on-going study conducted together with the European Techno-Economic Policy Support Network (ETEPS) with the support of EuroGentest, an EU-funded Network of Excellence (NoE) in the domain of genetic testing.
The study, entitled "Intellectual Property and Diagnostics", contains a compilation of evidence on where and how a representative sample of laboratories is exploiting DNA patents. It analyses the impact of this behaviour on European companies and clinical laboratories engaged in the development and provision of genetic tests and socio-economic consequences for the development of diagnostics and patient access to these diagnostics.
The purpose of such prospective studies, the speciality of JRC-IPTS, is to assess whether regulation at a European level in a given area is required.
Conducted across Europe, the study notes that genetic testing laboratories have generally had little experience of dealing with patents and require more support to negotiate the changing patent landscape around them. However, in many cases laboratories also lack awareness, experience and support to resolve patent-related issues, in an environment where patents are of increasing prominence. Private and public health insurers may thus end up having to provide more support due to increased costs relating to patented tests.
The concept of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is generally considered an important incentive for innovation as it facilitate the sharing of new knowledge and its application (invention) with the scientific community and society as a whole. In spite of its stimulating effect on innovation, it has been suggested that intellectual property also has the potential to inhibit research as a result of the proliferation of DNA patents, resulting in limited access to novel treatments and diagnostics, for example as a result of high licensing fees. Yet little empirical evidence exists on the actual impact that current patenting and licensing practices may have for the development and wider adoption of diagnostics. The study aims to fill this void.
Sibylle Gaisser, Michael M. Hopkins, Kathleen Liddell, Eleni Zika & Dolores Ibarreta, "The phantom menace of gene patents", Nature 458, 407-408 (26 March 2009) | doi:10.1038/458407a
The JRC has today released details of nuclear forensic work carried out on samples dating back to the early days of the technology's history: from Germany's World War II Programme. At a workshop for journalists held today, 19 March, on nuclear security and forensics at the JRC's Institute for Transuranium Elements (ITU) in Karlsruhe, Germany, JRC scientists presented the results of nuclear forensic investigations into two samples dating back to the first German nuclear energy project, thought to have begun in 1939.
One sample, a uranium metal cube, was obtained from the Haigerloch Atomic Museum in Baden-Württemberg and originated from the German "Uranverein" nuclear programme under the scientific leadership of 1932 Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Werner Heisenberg. The second sample, a uranium metal plate, was obtained from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg and is thought to have played a part in the work of Heisenberg's fellow researcher, Karl Wirtz.
Download the press release on German WWII nuclear programme forensics
A new facility at the Vehicle Emissions Laboratory of the JRC site in Ispra, Italy was opened today by European Research Commissioner Janez Poto nik. The latest JRC VELA 7 facility is the most advanced in Europe to test fuel consumption and related emissions of full size trucks and buses under simulated road driving conditions within a broad, realistic temperature range. To conduct the tests, the laboratory can host vehicles up to 40 tons and 12 metres and simulate wind drag, tyre/road friction as well as full drive cycles. VELA 7 will provide sound scientific data needed to support new legislation e.g. the upcoming Euro VI guideline which is aimed at reducing emissions of heavy duty vehicles.
New technologies have been added to the JRC technology portfolio, an on-line catalogue presenting technologies of the JRC available for licensing or collaboration. Although the JRC focuses on providing scientific and technical support to EU policies, interesting results are often created as a by-product of the JRC workprogramme, and the JRC actively encourages the licensing of these results.
Over the next three days (10-12 March) this international scientific congress, organised by the University of Copenhagen, gathers policy makers, government officials and academia from Europe and the rest of the world to debate the existing and emerging scientific knowledge relevant to policy making in the area of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. The congress will provide a summary of existing scientific knowledge two years after the last IPCC report. Its findings will be supplementary to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Food insecurity is one of the greatest challenges of today with almost one billion people undernourished worldwide. This number has recently been growing due to soaring food prices. The current economic crisis and climate change prospects are among the possible aggravating factors for the years to come.
The February edition of the JRC Newsletter has been published and can be downloaded here. This month's newsletter is a 'AAAS special' with features on the JRC's recent contributions to the American Association for the Advancement of Science's 2009 meeting in Chicago.
A Collaboration Agreement signed today between the JRC Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) and the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS) aims to advance measurement science and foster greater confidence in the comparability of international measurements. Areas covered will range from bioanalysis (DNA measurements) and radionuclide metrology (environmental measurements), to food control and mechanical testing (e.g. toughness of steel).
The European Commission’s independent Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) has published its opinion on the most recent developments in the risk assessment of nanomaterials. The opinion builds on and confirms earlier opinions published in 2006 and 2007. The JRC Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) contributed to the opinion in the area of conceptual 'environment, health and safety' (EHS) aspects related the regulation of nanomaterials.
The world's leading experts in Experimental Earthquake Engineering will meet in Ispra on 2-3 March for the first EFAST (European Facility for Advanced Seismic Testing) Design Study workshop. EFAST is a European project that studies all aspects regarding the design of a major testing facility in Europe that would complement existing facilities.