Stem Cell Agency Faces New Licensing Rules
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation on Monday announced a change in policy that will allow the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to distribute funding for embryonic stem cell research without purchasing a license, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/23).
WARF owns patents on both the method used to isolate embryonic stem cell lines and the cells themselves after a 1998 discovery by a University of Wisconsin scientist. Before the changes announced Monday, companies and universities were required to negotiate a license with WARF before conducting research on embryonic stem cells.
The licenses are unusual in academic and not-for-profit research and some researchers considered the rules to be a violation of academic courtesy and a waste of resources, according to the Sacramento Bee (Downing, Sacramento Bee, 1/23).
WARF said that it does not expect CIRM to remit "any portion of payment that [it] receives from its grantees" (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 1/23).
The new guidelines also allow researchers to provide their colleagues with copies of embryonic stem cells that they received from WARF, according to the Union-Tribune (San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/23).
WARF spokesperson Andy Cohn said the foundation still maintains the right to claim a share of royalties from stem cell therapies developed using state funding that eventually are commercialized (Sacramento Bee, 1/23).
Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF, said the changes stem from discussions with researchers and university administrators nationwide (Gallagher/Rust, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 1/22).
The Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and New York-based Public Patent Foundation in July petitioned the federal government to revoke the patents held by WARF, saying that the patents could hinder research funded by CIRM (California Healthline, 10/5/06).
John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said that despite the new policy, the patent petition will not be dropped. He said that WARF should "abandon its claims to these overreaching patents that are recognized nowhere else in the world" (Los Angeles Times, 1/23).