Wisconsin Stem Cell Patents Called Limiting
A short AP story on WBAY-TV reports that an article in the magazine Science says that the patents for embryonic stem cells held by researchers at the University of Wisconsin are more restrictive to research than President Bush’s federal limitations. The story says that the patents restrict distribution of the cells to other researchers. In a much more comprehensive report, the Wisconsin State Journal says that the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, which is the body that manages the University’s patents, defended the patents and quoted the WARF director as saying, “I'm not embarrassed at all to say that I hope the University of Wisconsin will make a whole lot of money from these patents.” The article was written by a researcher at Burnham Institute, one of the four institutions that recently formed a stem cell research consortium in California, and by a patent attorney at a D.C. law firm. The article says that the patents are written so broadly as to cover even the method of growing embryonic stem cells, and it takes issue with the licensing fees for use of the embryonic stem cells--$500 for a university (reduced from $5000 after NIH got involved) and up to $125,000 for private commercial labs. Small biotech start-ups are charged less than large pharmaceutical companies. The WARF spokesman told the Wisconsin State Journal that the fees include training on how to handle the “finicky” cells, and that most of the money received from fees has been put back into research rather than being banked. The news story quotes several other scientists, who agree that the patents are too restrictive and expect it to end up in a legal battle.