Thursday, January 10, 2008

Monkey Business, BioTime and the Search for Science

WARF and BioTime --California's BioTime Inc. has hooked up with WARF and signed a licensing agreement to use some of its patents on human embryonic stem cell research. The Emeryville firm said the WARF patents will allow it to manufacture and commercialize human embryonic stem cell-derived cell types and related products for scientists to use in research and in drug discovery. As part of that effort, the company plans to develop and commercialize a collection of research tools for stem cell research. Here is a link to a Wisconsin story on the subject, and here is a link to the company press release.

Monkeys and the American Psyche
-- Scientific American says the reprogramming of adult rhesus monkey (see photo) stem cells into embryonic stem cells is one of the top 25 scientific stories of 2007, but that doesn't mean much to the public. The overwhelming majority of Americans has never heard of the research. So says the first poll taken since the announcement of the research results in November. According to the survey by the Virginia Commonwealth University, only 38 percent of those polled had heard of the reprogramming results. The implications for stem cell advocates? They have a long way to go before this stuff is entrenched in the American psyche.

Finding The Worthy
– The topic of stem cell research grants to businesses came up recently in the Biopolitical Times, a blog produced by the Center for Genetics and Society. Jesse Reynolds wrote that the California stem cell agency should resist efforts by businesses to lower revenue-sharing requirements that might be linked to grants to the private sector. He also wrote:
"Although there is likely not enough current stem cell research capacity in California to warrant $300 million in grants per year, there's no effective mechanism to prevent as much money going out the door as possible, regardless of the research's quality. The CIRM's governing board is dominated by representatives of grant recipients - from the public, nonprofit, and corporate sectors alike."
Nearly three years, one anonymous writer from the world of academic science in California expressed a similar reservation about whether there is enough good stem cell science worthy of funding in California. More recently some on the Oversight Committee have expressed concern about maintaining the quality of the research that is being funded. However, this is not a subject likely to be discussed freely in public by folks at CIRM. To do so could appear to be casting doubts on the agency's mission.

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