Stem Cell Institute Reinstates Key Research Provision After Compromise;

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Rule Prevents Impediments Like Those Caused By Wisconsin Stem Cell Patents

Santa Monica, CA — A California stem cell institute committee has reinstated regulations allowing a scientist at a university or non-profit institution to experiment with patented inventions and preventing universities from using patents to impede vital research, consumer advocates said today.

A foundation affiliated with the University of Wisconsin has been widely criticized by stem cell researchers for the way it has impeded research with its patents on human embryonic stem cells. As a result of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation‘s practices, some research has been driven overseas where the patents aren’t recognized.

The compromise “research use exemption” adopted by the stem cell committee this week was based on language worked out by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and representatives of biotech firms Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems.

The stem cell institute’s Intellectual Property Task Force has been writing ownership rules for discoveries made by university and non-profit institution researchers funded with taxpayer money. In July under intense pressure from the biotech industry, it voted to remove the research use exemption.

“We were extremely disappointed at such a complete cave-in in July,” said John M. Simpson, Stem Cell Project Director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “But this week the stem cell committee approved a compromise that, while not perfect, will ensure scientists get access to taxpayer-funded discoveries for further research and development.”

The new language obligates a university or non-profit institution to make its taxpayer-funded patented inventions “readily accessible on reasonable terms” to other institutions receiving stem cell grants. The patented discoveries could be made available through a license or directly.

“All of us who have followed the behavior of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) know the danger of an institution controlling vital patents while its managers have dollar signs in their eyes,” said Simpson. “We’re not going to let that happen in California.”

FTCR joined with the Public Patent Foundation in July to challenge the WARF patents. A decision on whether three WARF patents will be re-examined is due from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Oct. 17.

The stem cell institute’s Intellectual Property Task Force is now drafting regulations for grants and loans to businesses.

“These for-profit rules are especially critical, ” said Simpson, “because the grants to profit-making entities will involve projects closer to commercialization and clinical use than is the case with grants to universities. The possibility of abuse is great. There must be provisions to prevent unfair and egregious profiteering on the part of any grantee company.”

Proposition 71, approved overwhelmingly by the voters in 2004, created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to oversee funding $3 billion in stem cell research. Including bond financing, $6 billion of public money is at stake. The first research grants are expected to be made early next year.

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is California’s leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at Our stem cell information page is located at

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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