In December 1999, the Munich-based European Patent Office granted a patent on altering cells and human embryos to Edinburgh University. The patent office later said it had made a mistake and had overlooked the patent's potential use on humans. Edinburgh University and an Australian biotech firm, Stem Cell Sciences, applied to the office for a patent to genetically alter the cells of mammals, which could then be used to create embryos. A spokesman for the patent office said officials did not notice a reference to human cells in the 235-page application. Despite the admission of error, and despite the fact that European guidelines barred patents on human genetic alterations, the patent remained valid. Only a formal protest could reverse the decision, but appeals could drag out the process for years. The Italian government was evaluating the possibility of appealing against the Munich-based patent office. The government would take this decision collectively, as there were many ministries involved. Germany, especially sensitive to the issue because of Nazi efforts to create a master race, taking a hard stance on genetic engineering and having tight rules on scientific research, objected to the patent and planned to launch a formal challenge in coming months.