Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Challenge to WARF hESC Patents Cites Recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision

Patents on human embryonic stem cells are being challenged in a new legal filing that cites the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that barred the patenting of human genes.

The stem cell case involves the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which holds the patents on the much-heralded work performed by Jamie Thomson  at the University of Wisconsin. The lawsuit was filed by the Public Patent Foundation of New York City on behalf of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit group in Santa Monica, Ca. Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, is also involved along with Alan Trounson, president of the California stem cell agency. The agency itself is not a party.

This week's filing follows the so-called Myriad decision last month by the nation's highest court which said,
“Myriad did not create anything. To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”
"WARF did not create or alter the properties inherent in stem cells any more than Myriad created or altered the genetic information encoded in the DNA it claimed.” 
The legal filing came in an appeal of an earlier decision by the U.S. Patent Office. The Public Patent Foundation, which was a successful party in the Myriad case, did the earlier legal work on the challenge to the WARF patents as well as this week's appeal.

The appeal, prepared by Dan Ravicher, said the WARF patents have "put a severe burden on taxpayer-funded research in California.”

Trounson released a statement saying,
“We don't want to do anything that gets in the way of finding treatments for some of the biggest killers today, so we feel that all patients with all kinds of diseases deserve to have access to these kinds of cells.”
Loring was quoted in a Consumer Watchdog press release as saying,
"Human embryonic stem cells hold great promise for advancing human health, and no one has the ethical right to own them.”
John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog said,
 “The best course if WARF truly cares about scientific advancement would be to simply abandon these over-reaching patent claims.”
A story by Bradley Fikes in the San Diego U-T cited intellectual property attorney Lisa Haile of DLA Piper as saying,
“A successful use of the Myriad case as a precedent for throwing out the foundation’s patent would open the door to similar challenges in just about any biotech product using material derived from life.”
WARF made no immediate comment.

Other stories on the WARF challenge appeared in the Milwaukee JournalGenomeweb and the LaCross Tribune. 
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