Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tackling Stem Cell Collaboration

Last week, the Mission Bay conference center at UC San Francisco was the scene of a meeting to discuss issues related to stem cell research. We asked one of those involved in organizing the event, Krishanu Saha, to give us a summary of the session. Here is Saha's report.

"In a successful workshop on Feb. 6 organized by the Berkeley Stem Cell Center and the Berkeley Science, Technology and Society Center, scientists, lawyers, ethicists, academic leaders, and patient advocates across California and the US gathered in San Francisco to discuss collaboration in stem cell research (see the "research roadblocks" item on Feb. 2).

"The morning consisted of three panels that described the problems in three interacting domains - the technical, proprietary, & ethical - of California's stem cell research climate. The need for sharing data on stem cell lines themselves was raised by a panel of practicing scientists, and later echoed by panels of intellectual property experts and ethicists.

"Intellectual property in stem cell tools was debated by both members of academia and industry, especially in regard to CIRM's policy. Legal experts and ethicists detailed the challenges of practicing within a patchwork of regulations across states and with tissue/cell donors.

Patient advocates and industrial leaders stressed their involvement in developing better healthcare during lunch, and in the afternoon, discussion shifted to how institutions could collaborate to deal with the problems laid out earlier. Both within stem cell research and other life sciences, several models of collaboration across states, academic institutions, and hospitals were discussed in an open forum.

"Participants agreed that there was a clear need for collaboration among stem cell research institutions and that California institutions will likely be intensely involved. Creating a database among institutions was seen as a potentially feasible first step, however further conversations will be necessary to determine the membership, costs, incentives, and types of data to include.

More information, including an important policy paper regarding this issue and a summary of the workshop, can be found at

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