Tuesday, September 03, 2013

WARF Stem Cell Challenge: Appeal Says Patent Involves Cells Not 'Markedly Different' Than Found in Human Body

The battle over whether excessive protection of stem cell IP stifles research that can lead to cures was engaged once more today with a broadside against the powerful Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation(WARF).

The attack came from California’s Consumer Watchdog organization and New York’s Public Patent Foundation which have been tussling with WARF for seven years. The dispute over intellectual property (IP) centers on a patent on human embryonic stem cells held by WARF and which the other organizations are challenging in a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C.

More specifically, the patent involves research by Jamie Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, and now also of UC Santa Barbara, in which he isolated human embryonic stem cells.

Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., this morning issued a news release concerning the organizations’ appellate brief that was filed last week. It cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that said genes cannot be patented because they exist in nature.  The lead attorney in that successful case, Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation, is also handling the challenge to WARF.

The news release said that Thomson deserved credit for being first to isolate and maintain human embryonic stem cells, but “his achievement was not the result of his having created a patentable invention.” The brief said that the work involved was “obvious.” One of the main reasons for Thomson’s achievement, the news release said, was that “he had access to human embryos and financial support that other researchers did not have.

The brief said,
The claims at issue here cover human embryonic stem (hES) cells that are not markedly different from those in our bodies. Thus, the claims are invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 for covering ineligible subject matter, an issue the Court may and, as a matter of judicial economy and public policy, should address.”
The challenge to the WARF patent has drawn impressive support in the scientific community, including  Jeanne Loring, now director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute, who was involved from the start. In 2007, Loring wrote in Nature that she became involved in the case because “scientists have an obligation not only to perform research but to make sure that our research can benefit the society that supports it.

The news release said,
“Later in the case Dr. Alan Trounson, then of Australia’s Monash University and now president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Douglas Melton of Harvard and Dr. Chad Cowan of Harvard filed affidavits supporting the challenge.
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