The European Union launched an arbitration market for embryos on Wednesday that it hopes will help stem the flow of unwanted embryos to the hands of donors and facilitate the transfer of embryos to people in need.
The EU’s flagship agency, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said the market, to be launched on Thursday, would offer an alternative to the country-by-country system that allows donors to pay a fee to the agency, which then hands the embryos over to their intended parents.
The agency said the Arbitration Market would allow donors to register their embryos with the agency and register them on a database that will allow them to see whether embryos in their collection are currently in their rightful parents’ hands.
“In the long term, we hope this will be the first of many market-based systems that will facilitate the safe transfer of unwanted human embryos to their potential and appropriate parents,” said the agency’s chief executive, Joaquin Almunia.
The European Medicine Agency, which is responsible for regulating the use of the Medicines Act, will work with a host of international and local partner agencies to develop and implement the market.
A market would also help stem an influx of unwanted babies and embryos that have been found in the hands or under the care of donors, said Almunio, adding that the EU hopes to eventually transfer more than 5,000 embryos to countries across the globe.
The EMA said the arbitration market would be open to anyone with an embryo or embryos who wants to register.
“If you want to be part of this, we want you to be a part of the European Commission’s work on this,” said Almagno.
The arbitration market will be launched in Europe in July, with its first phase expected to be held in September.
“This will be a new way to reach the people who are waiting for their chance,” Almagmo said.
For now, the agency is focusing on offering the EU’s embryos to donors in the form of embryos donated by their parents or the embryos of women who have given birth to babies with Down syndrome.
Under the Arbitrage Market, a donor will pay the EMA €5 ($5.40) per embryo and the agency will collect €30,000 ($35,700) to transfer the embryos to other donors, with the first recipient to receive an embryo.
“We have the technology to make this process happen quickly and cheaply, but this is not about the money,” Almunius said.
“We want to help these families who have lost their baby to the wrong person.”
The EU said that for every €100 it collects, the EME will be able to transfer between 1,200 and 1,600 embryos to more than 180 donors in more than 20 countries.