Monday, July 02, 2007

Melton, Cowan and Trounson Beef Up WARF Challenge

Three prominent stem cell scientists – two from Harvard and one from Australia – have bolstered a challenge to the embryonic stem cell patents held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

They are Douglas Melton and Chad Cowan, both of Harvard, and Alan Trounson of Monash University in Australia. Previously Jeanne Loring of the Burnham Institute had filed statements in support of the challenge to the patents of the discoveries by James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin.

Melton said,
"I very much believe Dr. Thomson deserves the scientific and public recognition he has received. However, he deserves that recognition because he undertook the arduous and timely task of getting fresh and high quality embryos to use as starting material for his work, and sufficient funding for such research, not because he did anything that was inventive... His perseverance and commitment deserve recognition and accolades. But I believe that had any other stem cell scientist been given the same starting material and financial support, they could have made the same accomplishment, because the science required to isolate and maintain human embryonic stem cells was obvious."
Melton's statement was released today by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumers Rights and the Public Patent Foundation. They filed the challenge last year in the wake of complaints in the scientific and commercial stem cell community about the restrictions and costs involving the WARF patents. The challenge won favorable preliminary ruling from the federal government, which WARF has responded to.

Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF, said earlier in a news release that:
"...the patents and publications the (Patent and Trademark Office) relied upon were not relevant to the isolation and proliferation of human embryonic stem cells. Gulbrandsen's comments were echoed by Dr. Colin Stewart, a leading stem cell researcher at the Institute of Medical Biology in Singapore, who submitted a declaration in support of the Thomson patents that emphasized the differences between mouse stem cells, which were prominent in the PTO's rejections, and the human embryonic stem cells that were isolated and characterized by Thomson."
More on the WARF response can be found at this site.

FTCR also has additional material, including the declarations from Trounson, Cowan and Loring, on its site.

The PTO now takes the arguments under submission. It is not expected to render a judgment for many months, perhaps as a long as a year.

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