MADISON -- In an effort to move human embryonic stem cell technology into the mainstream of academic and corporate research, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has established a private subsidiary whose primary purpose will be to distribute the cells to qualified scientists.
Embryonic stem cell lines were first successfully established late in 1998 by a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The patents that govern the technology and use of the cells are held exclusively by WARF, a private not-for-profit corporation that manages intellectual property in the interest of the university.
Stem cells are the parent cells of all cells in the body. An ability to grow the cells in the laboratory and, someday, to direct them to become specific kinds of cells -- blood cells, muscle cells, or brain cells -- has the potential to revolutionize transplant medicine and underpin lifelong treatment for a host of debilitating diseases, especially cell-based disorders such as diabetes mellitus, Parkinson's disease and some forms of leukemia.
The primary mission of the new non-profit institute, to be known as WiCell Research Institute, Inc., will be "to supply cells to support research for both academic and non-academic researchers," according to Carl Gulbrandsen, WARF's managing director.
The institute's scientific director will be James Thomson, the UW-Madison developmental biologist in whose laboratory human embryonic stem cells were first isolated. Thomson will remain on the Wisconsin faculty, however.
"Our intention is to make these cells widely available, and at a low cost for academic researchers," Gulbrandsen says.
So far, more than 100 requests for the cells have been received by Thomson's lab and at least a dozen companies have approached WARF about stem cell technology.
However, many scientists, especially academic scientists who depend on federal support to operate their laboratories, have been waiting for the Nati
Contact: Terry Devitt
University of Wisconsin-Madison