The latest set-to involves the National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource of Children's Hospital of Orange County Research Institute and Stem Cells Inc. of Palo Alto, Ca.
John M. Simpson, stem cell project director of Consumer Watchdog of Santa Monica, Ca., Wednesday provided a summary of the dispute. He reported that Philip Schwartz, head of the Resource, said his organization's efforts to promote research with human neural stem cells has been effectively blocked by patents held by Stem Cells Inc.
The entire story can be read on Simpson's organization's blog along with a response from Stem Cells, which said it did not control actions by the Resource.
The situation reminds us of a book, "Science Business," by Harvard business professor Gary Pisano, published a couple of years ago. He has studied and consulted with the biotech industry for decades and has written about its consistent lack of profits. He suggests that part of the problem lies in the "monetization of IP" and inappropriate application of high tech industry IP principles in the biotech industry.
In 2006, he said in an interview on the Harvard Business School web site:
"Science and business work differently. They have different cultures, values, and norms. For instance, science holds methods sacred; business cherishes results. Science should be about openness; business is about secrecy. Science demands validity; business requires utility. So, the tensions are deep.
"What has happened is that we have tried to mash these two worlds together in biotech and may not be doing either very well. Science could be suffering and business certainly is suffering. If you try to take something that is science, and then jam it into normal business institutions, it just doesn't work that well for either science or business."
Stem Cells Inc. was founded by scientists Irv Weissman of Stanford, Fred Gage of the Salk Institute and David Anderson of Caltech.
"You would have thought that with academic heavyweights like these involved with the company it would have been a no-brainer to figure out a way for Schwartz to distribute cells he has derived from CHOC patients to qualified researchers.
"The root of the problem is the Bayh-Dole act governing federally funded research. It has turned our universities into commercial entities where scientists rush to patent their discoveries rather than rush to publish and explain them."
We are querying Weissman, Gage and Anderson about their thoughts on the general issues raised by Schwartz along with the specifics.
Simpson's piece was the result of a notice by Schwartz to about 2,700 persons, mostly academics, about the patent issue. Simpson sent out a note to about 75 journalists nationwide about his item.