Monday, April 02, 2007

WARF Stem Cell Patent Claims Rejected

The federal government has rejected three embryonic stem cell patent claims by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, upholding a challenge led by a California watchdog group, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

The challenge to the work done by the University of Wisconsin scientist James Thomson was upheld by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the FTCR group said Monday.

John M. Simpson, stem cell project director for FTCR, said, "This is a great day for scientific research." Numerous groups and scientists had complained that the WARF patents placed roadblocks in the way of research.

WARF had no immediate comment. The organization has two months to respond to the ruling, which came more quickly than expected. Geron, a California company that has an exclusive license involving the patents, had no immediate comment. The California stem cell agency also had no comment on the case, a position it has maintained since it began.

The decision said,
"It would have been obvious to one skilled in the art at the time the invention was filed to the method of isolating ES cells from primates and maintaining the isolated ES cells on feeder cells for periods longer than one year. A person skilled in the art would have been motivated to isolate primate (human) ES cells, and maintained in undifferentiated state for prolonged periods, since ES cells are pluripotential and can be used in gene therapy."
The Public Patent Foundation was a partner in the challenge to the WARF patents. Dan Ravicher, executive director of that organization, said,
“Now that the PTO has ruled, WARF should simply drop all its claims."
Jeanne Loring, a stem cell researcher at the Burnham Institute in California, had filed documents in support of the patent challenge. She was once quoted as saying,
"WARF's stance that Thomson's work is worthy of patents, 'is like saying that just because heating in water works for cooking a chicken egg, it's novel to consider using heating in water to cook a duck egg.'"
Loring also wrote last spring in Science magazine that Geron funded the patented HES cell derivations and "received an exclusive license for broad therapeutic use in the United States of HES cell–derived cardiac, nervous system, and pancreatic cells."

More background on the WARF patents can be found by searching on "WARF patents" in the "search blog" window in the upper left hand corner of this page. Sphere: Related Content

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