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Monday, August 08, 2022

Agreement clarifies stem-cell rights

The National Institutes of Health and UW-Madison's WiCell Research Institute reached an agreement Wednesday that will allow NIH to use WiCell's five stem-cell lines. 

WiCell is a nonprofit subsidiary of UW-Madison's Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, created to oversee stem-cell research. 

Andrew Cohn, government and public affairs manager for WARF, said under the agreement scientists could patent and publish their own work based on UW-Madison's stem-cell lines.  

The agreement was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson at a Senate hearing, where senators were discussing the Bush stem-cell policy. Known as the Memorandum of Understanding, the agreement will stand in compliance with President Bush's criteria for stem-cell research. 

Cohn said this agreement will help research run smoothly. 

'It makes it very easy for researchers to participate in stem-cell research,' he said. 'It [also] sets a standard for all of the companies who want to provide cells.' 

Wednesday's agreement will allow the scientists at NIH to have both access to the cell lines and patent rights to their discoveries. Additionally, it will provide the model for future relationships between other cell-line holders and interested parties.  

Cohn said that if a scientist wanted to commercialize his discovery, the scientist would have to buy a license from UW-Madison. 

He said, however, that some of the specific elements within the agreement are still tentative. 

He said other institutions, including the University of California, the University of Israel and the University of Sweden, will 'probably be working on agreements with the NIH.' 

Cohn said while the media attention has been particularly focused on stem-cell research, work and funding between the NIH and UW-Madison is a regular occurrence. 

'We get a huge amount of funding from NIH,' Cohn said. 'This is getting a lot of publicity, but this is very much a part of a productive, ongoing relationship.'  

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During the hearing, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., among others, said he was concerned that only 10 institutions had power over the stem-cell lines, which might result in a monopoly.  

Mark Bugher, WARF business issues director, however, said this agreement will help scientists from both research institutes and other campuses. 

'The citizens of this country will be the beneficiary,' Bugher said. He said the agreement will be 'mutually beneficial' to both the NIH and UW-Madison. 

'I think the NIH ... is a very important player with the ongoing development of stem-cell research,' he said. 'It's always very helpful to have positive working relationships [with NIH].' 

Bugher said former Wisconsin Gov. Thompson encouraged the White House to move ahead with the research. 

'He was very persuasive, and I think he had the president's ear on this issue,' he said. 'My sense is that he had a very significant role in this decision.'

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