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Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
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Small Win for Wisconsin in Stem Cell Fight
28 February 2008 (All day)
With a government decision upholding an important 2006 patent on human stem cell techniques, biomedical researcher James Thomson and his school, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have won the latest skirmish in a long-running conflict over patents.
The battle began 2 years ago when PubPat, a New York City-based nonprofit, joined with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights to challenge the patent and two others owned by the university-affiliated Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Earlier this week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) released an 85-page decision that upholds the patents yet narrows their scope slightly. "We're very pleased," says WARF's managing director, Carl Gulbrandsen. "We believed from the very beginning that Thomson’s discoveries were patentable."
In their effort to challenge the patent, WARF's opponents argued that Thomson's work was obvious when he performed it in the 1990s. Four prominent stem cell scientists--Jeanne Loring of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California; Alan Trounson, now president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, headquartered in San Francisco; and Douglas Melton and Chad Cowan of Harvard University--filed affidavits saying that published techniques that already existed for producing mouse stem cells rendered Thomson's work obvious. But the patent examiner rejected those arguments earlier this week, saying that the published science in the 1990s was too "unpredictable" to lead someone to try making human stem cells "with a reasonable expectation of success." Plus he questioned whether Loring and Trounson were "disinterested" because they have tried to patent stem cell techniques.
"The battle is hardly over," groups that had originally challenged the patent said today in a press statement. They plan to appeal the decision. The 2006 patent relies on the two others that the groups challenged, which were granted in 1998 and 2001 and are currently under review by PTO. Decisions invalidating those patents could severely weaken the 2006 patent, despite its solid position today.