Rapid development in the stem cell field, particularly in the field of pluripotent stem cells, resulted in the establishment of many cell lines, including those of ES cells and iPS cells. Some cell lines were made with the help of public funding while others with private money. The way stem cells are used also varies depending on the purpose of the types of research or medical applications. Regardless of the source of funding or the way cells are used, one important question is how to decide policies for sharing materials and data.

On one hand, to accelerate innovation and commercialization, one may need to admit that obtaining IPs and not sharing research materials and data need to be prioritized for researchers and companies. On the other hand, to facilitate overall research activities and speed up medical innovation, one can say that sharing materials and data should be encouraged by researchers and even by the business sector.

Regarding the latter view, we can learn some lessons from genome research areas, where notions of equity, justice and benefit sharing have been emphasized throughout the history of the field. One well-known example is Bermuda principle formulated in 1996. The principle declared that genome sequence data in the Human Genome Project (HGP) should be released into the public domain as soon as data is produced. One reason behind the principle was to emphasize that human genome data should not be privately owned by a few, but needs to be utilized by all of the researchers around the world. Another reason is a kind of moral consideration – human genome research should give benefit to the people of the society where advanced biomedical science cannot be conducted. The concept has been inherited in many subsequent research activities and has become a basic norm for genome research areas. I would like to argue that stem cell research community needs to learn the same notion of sharing and to pay attention to the concept of global equity and benefit sharing. Moreover, to actually facilitate sharing of materials and data, various points need to be considered. For example, informed consent that enables sharing of cells and data should be obtained. I will talk about conceptual reasoning as well as practical points to facilitate material and data sharing in the stem cell field.


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  • Received: 05 March 2012
  • Accepted: 28 March 2012
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