Human Exceptionalism

Embryonic Stem Cell Patent (Money) Fight

Patents. You don’t hear too much about the issue in the ESCR debate, but patent some-would-say obstructionism, at least as much as those purportedly caused by President Bush’s funding policy, have allegedly impeded ESCR.

Now, it appears that the iron grip of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which owns the primary human ES cell patents, may be breaking. From the story:

The California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and others are challenging patents that cover discoveries by UW researcher Jamie Thomson, who was the first to grow and isolate human embryonic stem cells in 1998.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the university’s research arm, holds the patents covering the cells and research techniques used by many American scientists. Critics say its license fees have stifled the young field.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said in a preliminary decision in April that it was preparing to throw out the patents because Thomson’s discoveries were obvious given previous research by other scientists.

Scientists fighting Bush is ho hum. Expected. A right of passage, if you will. But researchers going after each other? Follow the money.

Doug Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, said in a declaration released Monday that Thomson’s achievements came from his access to money and materials, not groundbreaking science.

“He deserves recognition because he undertook the arduous and timely task of getting fresh and high quality human embryos to use as starting material in his work and sufficient funding for such research, not because he did anything that was inventive,” Melton wrote.

Meeeow!

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