WARF signs stem cell license agreements

April 26, 2002

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has signed two licensing agreements allowing a company and another university to distribute human embryonic stem cells in research.

The agreements were announced April 26 at a news conference attended by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson.

ES Cell International, with offices in Singapore and Melbourne, Australia, will be allowed to distribute human embryonic stem cells worldwide for use in research. This is the first license agreement WARF has signed with a commercial provider listed on the National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Registry.

In a separate agreement, the University of California-San Francisco will be able to distribute human embryonic stem cells worldwide for use in research. This is the first license agreement WARF has signed with an academic provider listed on the NIH registry.

“It is WARF’s goal to enable scientists’ access to a wide variety of cells to move embryonic stem cell discovery forward as fast as possible,” says Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF. “Only by increasing the number of scientists working in this field will these researchers bring the tomorrow of medicine closer to today.”

Thompson lauds both agreements. “This announcement is further vindication of the U.S. government’s approach to human embryonic stem cell research,” Thompson says. “The full potential of embryonic stem cell research, and ultimately the development of therapeutic products, will only be achieved through cooperative efforts by academic institutions.”

Embryonic stem cell lines were first successfully established late in 1998 by a team of scientists headed by developmental biologist James Thomson.

The work was supported in large part by Geron Corp., but the patents that govern the technology and use of the cells are held by WARF.

More than 100 academic researchers and numerous companies have approached WARF about licensing stem cell technology in the past two years.

Embryonic stem cells are of great interest to medicine and science because of their ability to develop into virtually any other cell made by the human body. The first potential applications of human embryonic stem cell technology may be in the area of drug discovery. In addition, the ability to grow human tissue of all kinds opens the door to treating a range of cell-based diseases and to growing medically important tissues that can be used for transplantation purposes.