UK Works To Forge Ties With Stem Cell Institute
The United Kingdom's Medical Research Council is forming informal ties with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to examine ways U.S. and British scientists can work together on stem cell research, according to Andrew Cahn, CEO of UK Trade & Investment, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Cahn visited California with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss developing closer ties with the state's biotechnology, energy and other sectors (Armstrong/Tansey, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/1).
Several British biotech experts traveling with Blair said they believe their country is ahead of the U.S. in stem cell research. However, the experts said California could soon close the gap with Proposition 71-- approved in 2004 to provide $3 billion over 10 years for stem cell research (Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, 8/1).
Peter Chambre, former CEO of the biotech firm Cambridge Antibody Technology Group, said Britain hopes to form relationships with California and U.S. businesses to develop the country's scientific discoveries into successful new companies and products.
Cahn said, "We are aware of increasing competition from other countries for your attention," adding, "Leading CEOs tell us they will go to where the talent is. ... Our ties with the U.S. are already deep, but we need to deepen that" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/1).
CIRM officials also say there are no ongoing talks about licensing fees with the University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which claims the agency must make some sort of payment to the foundation in order to conduct stem cell research, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. WARF holds three broad patent rights for a technology "that essentially give it control of embryonic stem cells used in the" U.S., according to the Union-Tribune (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/30).
Earlier this month, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and New York-based Public Patent Foundation petitioned the federal government to revoke three patents held by WARF, which they say could hinder research funded by CIRM (California Healthline, 7/19).
WARF believes it should receive a portion of the state's royalties, whether it be in the form of licensing fees, royalties or some other type of agreement with scientists conducting research funded by CIRM.
Edward Penhoet -- vice chair of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, which administers CIRM -- said the institute believes that researchers receiving grant money are "knowledgeable third parties with all the know-how of receiving all the licenses and approvals they need to conduct their research" (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/30).