The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation holds the patents on virtually all embryonic stem cells that have ever been produced, that ever will be produced, and of all the technological and medical results of that research. At least according to them, and at least in the United States.
And they’ve been sued by other researchers because of those patents – and not only because of the money involved.
However, early this week the Foundation announced that they will relax some of their earlier restrictions and that they will not charge some researchers for licensing fees. According to the Sacramento Bee,
The Wisconsin foundation that holds patents covering U.S. embryonic stem cell research will waive some of its fees to encourage more industry-sponsored research.
The changes follow criticism from scientists who said the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s fees and its licensing system were driving some investment overseas.
Scientists around the country hailed the policy changes, which will let researchers share their cells for free and allow companies to sponsor research at universities without having to obtain licenses that cost up to $400,000.
“The notion of reducing fees and sharing cell lines and enabling companies to sponsor research at academic institutions is a good thing and should help push the research forward,” said Brock Reeve, executive director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
The Wisconsin foundation controls three patents covering research by University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist James Thomson, who in 1998 became the first to grow and isolate human embryonic stem cells. The patents are broadly written to cover the cells and research techniques used by many American scientists.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit will not be dropped, according to SignOn San Diego, by the Union Tribune
But despite the policy changes, the patent challenge will not be dropped, said Loring and John Simpson, of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer rights, one of the groups challenging the patents.
“A change in licensing policy of the human ES cell patents doesn’t solve the fundamental problem that the patents should not have been issued in the first place,” Simpson said. “The right thing for WARF to do is admit that it doesn’t deserve the patents and abandon them in their entirety.”