Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wisconsin Gives $1 Million to Thomson Firm, More Tidbits on WARF Patent Flap

The Cheeseheads have thrown down another stem cell gauntlet.

Here is the latest as reported by Kathleen Gallagher of the Milwuake Journal Sentinel:
"Stem cell pioneer James Thomson and two others have started a second company that aims to grow platelets and red blood cells from embryonic stem cells.
"The company, called Stem Cell Products Inc., believes it has a chance to be among the first in the world to bring an embryonic stem cell-related therapeutic to market."
Gallagher said that the state of Wisconsin has given $1 million in grants and loans to the firm, which was co-founded by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Igor Slukvin and Dong Chen and venture capital firm Tactics II Ventures.

Wisconsin-California relations also surfaced in a piece by Cathy Tran in The Scientist magazine. The article was a wrapup of the WARF patent flap. But it also had some interesting tidbits.

Tran wrote:
"(California stem cell scientist Jeanne) Loring said the first person to isolate human stem cells was Ariff Bongso at the National University of Singapore in 1994.

"That begs the question why, if the leap to cultivating human stem cells was an obvious one, it wasn't done sooner. Bongso told The Scientist that the scientific community seemed disinterested in the discovery, and so he did not pursue the research further.

"Loring said the first human embryonic stem cell line wasn't created until 1998 in part because the National Institutes of Health did not fund research on human embryos before 2001, which made it 'pretty close to impossible' for any U.S. academic lab to derive human embryonic stem cells. In addition, it was 'not easy to find an in vitro fertilization clinic that wanted to go to the trouble of providing embryos for this research.'

"Thomson, however, maintains that his discovery was far from obvious. 'In the early 1990s, when we started this work, it was not at all clear that the isolation of human embryonic stem cells was really possible, as other groups had tried and failed,' he told The Scientist in an email.

"One of the groups that tried and failed included researcher Michael West, CEO of Advanced Cell Technology and founder of Geron Corporation. 'From firsthand painful experience, [the techniques were] not obvious in the scientific community,' West told The Scientist. The challenge based on the discovery being obvious 'is easy in retrospect, but you really have to base it on real firsthand experiences of the people in those days.'"
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