Genetic Engineering - Cloning, DNA, Stem Cells Pros and Cons
Molecular genetics

The future technology

Patents covering Human Stem Cell Research

The patents covering a lot of work on human embryonic stem cells are owned by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). WARF does not charge academics to study human stem cells but does charge commercial users. WARF sold Geron Corp. exclusive rights to work on human stem cells but later sued Geron Corp. to recover some of the previously sold rights.

The two sides agreed that Geron Corp. would keep the rights to only three cell types. In 2001 WARF came under public pressure to widen access to human stem-cell technology. These patents are now in doubt as a request for review by the US Patent and Trademark Office has been filed by non-profit patent-watchdogs The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights and the Public Patent Foundation as well as molecular biologist Jeanne Loring of the Burnham Institute.

According to them, two of the patents granted to WARF are invalid because they cover a technique published in 1992 for which a patent had already been granted to an Australian researcher. Another part of the challenge states that these techniques, developed by James A. Thomson, are rendered obvious by a 1990 paper and two textbooks.

The outcome of this legal challenge is particularly relevant to the Geron Corp. as it can only license patents that are upheld.

Next: Polls regarding Embryonic Stem Cell Research...

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