Monday, December 03, 2007

California's Widening Stem Cell Net

Will Wisconsin scientist Jamie Thomson and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka be ripe for a research grant next year from the California stem cell agency? And perhaps others as well who are located principally outside of California?

's $3 billion research effort appears to be moving in that direction in its latest RFA for new cell lines, including reprogramming efforts.

For those of you who may have been tuned out last month, Jamie Thomson of the University of Wisconsin and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan, generated international hoopla with their reports that they created pluripotent cells out of adult human skin cells.

Both men did their work outside California, which made them ineligible for funding in the Golden State.

But Thomson is now affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, which has ponied up $1 million to support him at the seaside campus. And Yamanaka is linked to Gladstone Institute in San Francisco. Both men are part of a wave of about 50 stem cell scientists who have come to California since the stem cell institute was created three years ago.

If the money were right, both would seem to be able to meet the CIRM requirement for the grants for the new cell lines that they make a "10 percent effort" on research in California. Other scientists are likely to be able to meet that requirement as well.

The CIRM Oversight Committee indirectly touched on the question of funding such folks as Thomson and Yamanaka at its meeting in October. Neither Thomson nor Yamanaka was mentioned by name. But at one point, Philip Pizzo, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine and a member of the Oversight Committee, asked CIRM staff,
"What if there's an investigator who comes to California for part of her or his work who has an appointment in another state, let's say Wisconsin as a hypothetical, who develops new stem cell lines. and because of an academic affiliation seeks to have those said lines become part of, for example, the Wisconsin policy?"
Pizzo later remarked,
"We would welcome joint appointments or other appointments that would bring new talent to California, recognizing that the individual may be at another place, but I think we just have to understand -- the legal folks will need to understand what that means in terms of institutional controls over IP as well."
The upshot of the discussion seemed to be that the IP would belong to the institution where the research was conducted, and it would be in California. But no legal opinion was rendered by CIRM or policy position taken.

During a later discussion of disease team grants, California stem cell Chairman Robert Klein made it clear that "there is the intent to capture these brilliant scientists who are prepared to make a part-time commitment to California, paying for the time they spend in California."

All of this fits with the aspirations of incoming CIRM President Alan O. Trounson, an Australian who has said broadening the reach of the agency is one of his goals. Sphere: Related Content

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