4 Scientists Support Challenge to Wisconsin's Stem-Cell Patents

July 02, 2007

Buoyed with declarations from four internationally known stem-cell scientists, the two consumer groups that have challenged the University of Wisconsin’s patents on embryonic stem cells say that even with the university’s new, narrower claims, the patents should be invalidated.

In papers filed on Friday, the scientists — Chad Cowan and Douglas Melton of Harvard University; Alan Trounson of Monash University, in Australia; and Jeanne Loring of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research — supported the groups’ contention that the work by the Wisconsin scientist James A. Thomson in isolating and perpetuating human embryonic stem cells was not novel enough to deserve a patent. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, in California, and the Public Patent Foundation, in New York City, said in their filings and in a news release issued on Monday that the work for which Mr. Thomson was awarded patents was “obvious.”

In April, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the patents were invalid. The university, through its patenting arm, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, has appealed that ruling. —Goldie Blumenstyk