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Patent Office Issues Certificates to Uphold WARF Stem Cell Patents
Concludes Reexam for University of Wisconsin-Madison's Most Important Base
Embryonic Stem Cell Discoveries
Madison, Wis. – The United States Patent
and Trademark Office has issued Reexamination Certificates for the two most
important base embryonic stem cell patents held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research
Foundation (WARF). This action officially concludes a reexamination process for
these patents that began in October 2006, and was decided in WARF's favor in
March of this year.
The patent office issued certificates for patents
?780 and ?806, which date back more than a decade to the breakthrough discovery
of the isolation and culture of primate and human embryonic stem cells made at
the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This ruling is not appealable, which means
that the claims of these patents stand confirmed and enforceable.
are extremely pleased that the patent office has officially concluded these
reexaminations," states Carl Gulbrandsen, WARF managing director. "Due to the
patent office's extremely thorough and detailed reexaminations, we feel our
patents are stronger than ever and affirm that Dr. James Thomson's
groundbreaking discoveries are patentable inventions."
renowned stem cell researcher and pioneer, is a professor of anatomy at the
UW-Madison and recently was appointed director of regenerative biology at the
Morgridge Institute for Research, part of the new Wisconsin Institutes for
The challenge to the patents was brought by the New
York-based Public Patent Foundation and the California-based Foundation for
Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. A third patent, ?913, also was included in the
challenge and was upheld earlier this year. However, as this more recently
issued patent follows a slightly different process, it still is subject to
appeal by the third-party requestor.
Gulbrandsen noted that patent
protection is vital for attracting the significant private sector investment
necessary to develop commercial applications for stem cells. "Human embryonic
stem cells provide researchers powerful tools for testing drugs at the cellular
level, which may lead to astonishing advances in pharmaceutical development,
particularly in the field of personalized medicine, and reduce reliance on
animal testing. They also have the potential to offer new treatments and cures
for devastating diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and spinal
cord injuries that afflict millions of people around the world," he states.
"But, it takes millions upon millions of dollars to develop and bring
new medical discoveries to market, and without patents to protect their
investments and the opportunity to generate profits, companies will not commit
resources to the lengthy and costly development and clinical trials process."
Since the announcement that its patents were upheld, WARF has seen
increased interest in licensing its stem cell technologies. It currently has
completed 30 license agreements with 25 companies, including an agreement just
signed with Invitrogen Corporation last month. Gulbrandsen notes that any
revenues WARF earns from licensing these and other technologies to companies is
used to support further research at the UW-Madison.
In addition, WARF
continues to support the distribution of cell lines and methodologies for
isolating and culturing human embryonic stem cells to researchers through its
affiliate, the nonprofit WiCell Research Institute. WiCell, which hosts the
National Stem Cell Bank, has fulfilled more than 900 free academic licenses for
patent rights to stem cells and has shipped cells to more than 500 researchers
in 25 countries and 40 states.
Academic scientists using these cell
lines and methodologies face no restrictions on patenting or publishing their
own novel work. Currently, two vials containing approximately six million stem
cell that are capable of establishing multiple new colonies are priced for
academic researchers at $500.
WARF was established as the world's first
university-based technology transfer office in 1925. As a private, nonprofit
foundation, it supports world class research at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison by funding research, protecting the intellectual property of
the university faculty, staff and students and by licensing inventions resulting
from their work to benefit humankind.