Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Patent War on iPS: One Researcher's View

As the California stem cell agency pushes ever more aggressively to turn research into cures, the second largest share of its awards, in terms of numbers of grants, has gone to efforts involving induced pluripotent cells, also known as reprogrammed adult cells.

But questions do exist whether those efforts can surmount barriers that have to do with patents and ownership of the intellectual property.

UC Davis stem researcher and blogger Paul Knoepfler discussed some of the problems in a post yesterday. He wrote,
“All the talk and the slew of publications about potentially using iPS cells to develop therapies to help patients is exciting in theory, but unfortunately the reality is that it is not entirely clear if most researchers are, from a legal standpoint, even allowed to develop and commercialize iPS cell-based therapies at all.
“The patent landscape for iPS cells is complicated to put it mildly. A Google patent search for “induced pluripotent stem cells” produced almost 200,000 results.
“A search for “cellular reprogramming produced more than 1,000 results.
I’m not sure all of these results are really separate patents, but still….that’s a big complicated mess.…..
“It is no exaggeration to say there are likely dozens of institutions around the world wanting to commercialize iPS cell-based products.
“Will they all have to pay expensive licensing fees or end up in court?
…or will the patent holders voluntarily and freely allow others to commercialize iPS cell-based medical treatments?
“I don’t think so.
“This could get really messy.”

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